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Penny Brooks has been an integral part of our Board of Trustees for nine years now – during which time she’s helped lead hundreds of staff and volunteers here at Ashgate Hospice. As Vice-Chair and now Chair, she has played an important role in guiding Ashgate through some huge moments.
As part of Trustees’ Week, which takes place this year between 6th and 10th November, and as she comes to the end of her term as a trustees with the hospice in January, here Penny reflects on her time at Ashgate and the role thousands of trustees across the UK have in shaping charities.
What is a trustee and why are they important?
Ashgate Hospice is a registered charity and is required to have a Board of Trustees. We are all volunteers and we are responsible for ensuring that Ashgate is well managed and that our finances are in good order. You may have also heard us referred to as the board or board members.
The Board act in the hospices best interest, setting the strategic direction of the charity, making key decisions and overseeing the running of Ashgate. We do this without being involved in the day-to-day activities at the hospice which are delegated to our Chief Executive and Leadership Team.
Ashgate trustees bring a broad range of backgrounds, skills and experience which is vitally important to run the organisation effectively and efficiently. We actively review the skills around the board when recruiting new trustees to ensure there are no skill gaps. The more we can learn from one another the better!
Why did you want to join the hospice as a trustee?
Having been on my journey with cancer, I knew from that experience that I wanted to do what I could to provide the best possible care for patients in the region. That’s why I decided to join Ashgate Hospice as a trustee back in 2014. Being able to do my bit to give back to my community and help support such an important organisation is just amazing.
What is your background and how did this help you in your role as a trustee?
As someone who has a professional clinical background as an experienced Chief Nurse within the NHS, I also have lots of experience of developing and delivering all kinds of health services to patients. This was really valuable in that I had worked at board level and had experience and understanding of the role and responsibilities of a trustee.
From my cancer journey, I also knew that we needed to ensure our patients and families had the best experience we could provide for them. And so being able to understand data and reports to gain assurance of the experience our patients were going through was very useful.
What does the role of a trustee entail?
Being a trustee means that you need to understand the role and responsibilities that are set out in Ashgate’s governing documents and comply with the charity law requirements. To meet this, we have a governance structure of committees that covers things like finance, people and performance and healthcare quality. All trustees are members of at least two of these separate committees and attend the main board meeting too.
You do have to give time, thought and energy to preparing and actively participating in these meetings as we are duty bound to act in Ashgate’s best interests to make appropriate decisions.
Do you enjoy being a trustee at the hospice?
I’ve absolutely loved being a trustee and have completed three terms now – the equivalent of nine years – as a trustee and have been a Vice Chair for that time too. Sadly, our previous Chair, Nicolas Jeffrey, died last year, so I was asked to stay on as chair for a year whilst a new person is recruited for the role. It has been a privilege to be part of Ashgate over the years; seeing it grow and develop into the outstanding organisation that it is today.
What have your highlights been since joining the board?
There have been lots of highlights! It’s been particularly great seeing and hearing the feedback from patients, staff and volunteers about their experiences of the hospice. Knowing that the staff and volunteers really do make a difference every day to the people of North Derbyshire is particularly special. I must add a very special mention about how hard everyone worked throughout Covid; despite it being such a challenging time, they were fantastic, and we came together as One Ashgate.