Newsmaker: Pioneering spirit

Paul Woodward, chief executive of Sue Ryder Care, says a £250,000 study will form the basis of his charity's action over the next decade.

Paul Woodward
Paul Woodward

Paul Woodward has joined Sue Ryder Care as chief executive at a crucial stage in its development. At the start of the year, it announced a £40m expansion and modernisation of services that will almost double its size. Key to this growth is Filling the Void, a nationwide study on the future need for palliative and neurological services, which the charity published in July.

The report marked a departure for Sue Ryder Care, which used to concentrate solely on service provision. It took two years and cost £250,000 to compile, but Woodward says it has been worth every penny.

"I'm not always sure that commissioners themselves fully understand what is needed in their localities, and we commissioned Filling the Void to address that," he says.

"Now we can articulate what the needs really are in terms of specialist neurological and palliative care, and which services will be needed in 10 years to help commissioners do their jobs properly. This information simply didn't exist before.

"It shouldn't be up to us to provide such data, but we don't have joined-up thinking across health and social services: it was either do nothing or do it yourself."

Woodward is keen for Sue Ryder Care to expand further, but wants to see more money coming from the Government. "We want to extend our fundraising target using the information from the report, and we're looking at more innovative ways of funding our future expansion and are exploring avenues," he says.

"We question the notion of relying solely on public giving, and we are looking at alternative forms of capital to achieve our aim of being fully represented throughout the UK."

The sector provides 80 per cent of the country's palliative care services, a figure Woodward says is unacceptable. "We really don't get paid sufficiently for the services we provide," he says. "That's something we need to address. I don't think getting more state funding would compromise our independence - there are many organisations in the care sector that are dependent on each other.

"For those standards that are required by the regulator, it's only right and proper that government pays for those services - they shouldn't be subsidised through public giving."

Many of the issues Sue Ryder Care faces over securing funding arise at a local level. "There's a huge disparity in terms of the funding we receive, and even in terms of the level of discussion we are able to get into," says Woodward.

"Part of the problem is that for years the sector has been prepared to accept what the regulator is prepared to give, instead of entering into a dialogue and saying what those services are costing. There is an attitude of 'well, you're a charity and that's what you do'. That's something we need to change if we want to engage in a proper partnership."

Sue Ryder Care has also pioneered claiming Gift Aid on goods donated to its shops. "Instead of having someone throw a black bag into a shop and walk off, we actually now have a relationship with them," says Woodward.

So far, the charity has claimed £90,000 in Gift Aid in this way, but hopes to raise £400,000 by the end of the financial year. The sign-up rate is about 23 per cent on average, but Woodward says that in its shop in Old Harlow, Essex, 93 per cent of goods are Gift-Aided. "It shows that if a shop manager and their team are really gung-ho, they can achieve remarkable results," he says.

There can be no doubt that with Woodward's practical, 'get on with it' attitude, Sue Ryder care is set to grow significantly over the next five years.

Woodward CV

2007: Chief executive, Sue Ryder Care
2000: Member of European Board, Schering
1995: Chief executive, Schering UK
1995: Marketing and sales director, Schering
1990: Business development director, Europe, for SKB

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