Careers: How I Got Here - Stephen Collinson, director of healthcare, Sue Ryder Care

What was your first job? I was a trainee in personnel management when I joined the National Health Service in 1979.

What does your current role involve? I am responsible for 18 care centres and a range of homecare services across the UK for Sue Ryder Care, specialising in neurological and hospice care. I determine healthcare strategy for the charity, establish links with the Department of Health and commissioning bodies, and run our services through a range of specialist teams.

Roughly outline your career path? I spent 25 years in the National Health Service rising from personnel trainee through hospital management to become chief executive of one of the largest trusts in England.

What training has most enhanced your career? A refresher programme for senior chief executives. When you reach the top of a managerial tree, it is easy to think that your training must stop. I found a new lease of life working with colleagues outside the health service, looking at police, prison and local authorities services.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Securing the development of new hospital services for the people of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. A £300m PFI project had been rejected three times by the Department of Health and I made it happen.

What is your advice to people starting out in this sector? Make sure you understand the business you are in, and learn from colleagues in the voluntary sector about why they are in the job and what you can do to make things better for users of your services.

Are there any charities you support financially or with your own time?

Several, ranging from Oxfam and The Woodland Trust through to our village hall restoration fund, where my family and I volunteer on the manual work and management side.

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