David Praill, outgoing chief executive of Hospice UK

The ordained priest is standing down after 18 years leading the national charity for hospice care

David Praill
David Praill

Now that I'm stepping back, I realise what a huge responsibility being a chief executive is. It's a role that you never quite escape, even on holiday. I've led Hospice UK for 18 years and letting go isn't easy. I will remain chair of ehospice, a global palliative care website, and put my energy into that – as well as freeing myself up for more reading, writing and long-distance walking.

I was ordained an Anglican priest, and death and bereavement are areas that I experienced while working in a parish church for two years. A small advert for a general manager for a hospice in Harrow in 1990 made me realise that the work encompasses many areas that I care about, including making a difference to people's lives and the importance of spirituality.

Hospices are safe places where people can process their emotions - a man once sat in my office heaving and crying for 15 minutes and then simply left.

Hospices are about living life as long as possible, supporting the family and giving permission to grieve.

I've seen hospices grow and mature. I don't want to diminish the community ownership of hospices because it's the secret of their success, but we risk government taking the service for granted. There needs to be a greater contribution to funding from taxation.

Charity chief executives can be so busy that it's easy to lose sight of who you are. I think it's important to give time to personal reflection. Also, instead of getting distracted by business, you should focus on the organisation's values: that's where the inspiration and energy comes from.

Hospice UK is the national charity for hospice care, supporting more than 200 hospices in the UK

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