Hospice chief executive bids a fond farewell after 15 years at the helm

The chief executive of St Catherine’s Hospice retires this week after leading the charity through ambitious changes and facing many challenges – including the 2008 recession and the Covid-19 crisis.

Stephen Greenhalgh has pioneered a range of improvements to enhance the care and support provided to local people facing life-shortening illnesses, as well as their loved ones and the wider community over the last 15 years, from the Lostock Hall hospice and in people’s own homes.

Since 2005, Stephen has worked with colleagues to deliver a major multi-million pound redevelopment programme of hospice facilities centred on the inpatient unit and the onsite Lymphoedema Woodside Clinic. The community Clinical Nurse Specialist service was saved from closure and now supports more than 225 people at home at any one time; helping to meet the growing needs of patients and families, including avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and relieving pressure on the NHS.

The Support Team – which offers bereavement counselling, befriending, remembrance services, rehabilitation and more – has developed amazingly over the last decade. The innovative Knowledge Exchange and Communications directorates were formed to provide information, training and increased awareness of end of life care across Central Lancashire, and both are highly regarded.

Opening up the hospice gardens and creating St Catherine’s Park – helping people feel more welcome and familiar within a hospice setting – and launching a ground-breaking café and community hub from a derelict barn have also been amongst many visionary achievements during Stephen’s era of leadership.

His nationally acclaimed, award-winning vision has transformed and opened up the hospice environment, creating new interest in the charity, and attracting hundreds of new volunteers and vital new income for the cause.

Thousands of people, including patients and families, have benefitted from the beautiful grounds and The Mill café in recent years, coming together for fundraising events, special occasions and remembrance opportunities, as well as being accessible every day to anyone who wants a quiet moment.

Stephen said: “People here believe in continued improvement; they believe that every moment matters and in constantly striving for better. No matter what the challenges, we are always seeking new ways to meet unmet need. St Catherine’s must continue to be courageous in its determined mission to help people experience higher standards of end of life living.”

Stephen has also raised thousands of pounds for St Catherine’s himself, taking on many of the charity’s varied fundraisers including firewalks, abseils, zip slides, ‘sitting in the stocks’ and the annual Moonlight and Memories Walk.

His favourite times have been visiting local schools and taking opportunities to care for patients alongside nurses and housekeepers. He said: “These have been magical moments and a heartfelt privilege.”

“St Catherine’s is amazing and I feel deeply humbled and privileged to have played a small part in its fabulous story,” Stephen added. “For me, St Catherine’s is far more than a hospice building, a philosophy of care and a community of amazing people. We are part of an ‘end of life matters’ movement determined to improve the most underfunded part of 21st century life. Our army of staff and supporters, paid and voluntary, all have a passionate conviction to end unnecessary suffering and transform the way we experience our last months and years. Over 200 hospices across the UK are astonishing in their commitment to this cause.”

The last weeks of Stephen’s time as chief executive have afforded no time to wind down! Everyone has been working tirelessly through the turbulent months of the Coronavirus pandemic to maintain St Catherine’s vital services, keep pressure off the NHS and ensure the viability of the charity.

Family-man Stephen, who enjoys photography, walking, and cycling on Scottish and Greek islands, retires on September 4 and assures that he won’t get hooked on daytime TV. He will continue his work on a PhD with the University of Glasgow researching ‘Change and Development in English Hospices?’ to bring new knowledge that will help future development and is so vital at this current time.

The Board of Trustees has appointed Lynn Kelly as Stephen’s successor. Lynn is currently Director of Knowledge and Technical at St Catherine’s Hospice, and will commence her new role on September 5.

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