A Pendleside Hospice therapy worker who went on to become the chief executive has celebrated 20 years at the charity.

Through Helen McVey's leadership, the hospice has seen major changes in service provision, including the expansion of day services, and ensuring that Pendleside meets the evolving needs of its community. 

Helen said: “One significant change that took place was the expansion of our day services, which went from two days to a week-long program.

“Alongside working with local healthcare professionals, we were able to provide more support to those with varying levels of needs, which included the additional services of physio and complementary therapy.” 

Helen joined the hospice in April 2004 following an extensive nursing career working in both the NHS and charitable sector.

She worked in hospitals in Cambridge, Glasgow and Ayrshire before leaving the NHS to work in the charity sector, initially working in a leadership role for MHA Care Group, a national care home and housing association charity. 

She said: "When I left school, I was set on becoming a nurse, but back then, going to university for a degree wasn't the norm.

"While everyone at the time urged me to pursue a degree, I opted for nursing school at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

"It was extraordinary working on wards where groundbreaking liver and heart transplants were performed—a revolutionary experience in its time.

"Being part of such a distinguished teaching hospital provided an invaluable education that laid the foundation for my career.
"I've been lucky to experience a diverse number of job roles, where alongside working, I've subsequently been supported to do both my nursing degree and master's degree in management and leadership. 

“I thoroughly enjoy working in the charity sector, as it offers more autonomy and agility in responding to need, and making the changes required.

"Being part of a local charity like Pendleside enables closer engagement with the community, fostering a deep sense of pride and responsibility. It ensures that the funds generously donated by our supporters are utilised effectively." 

When the chance to become chief executive emerged, Helen saw it as the right moment to step up. 

She said: “However, maintaining my nursing registration is really important to me - it’s a huge part of who I am.

"I'm committed to continuing my practice and contributing to patient care, which proved invaluable during the pandemic, allowing me to offer crucial support to the team when it was needed most.” 

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Pendleside was awarded an "outstanding" rating in regulator the Care Quality Commission's report this year and Helen says it is the highlight of her career. 

She said: "It felt like the culmination of 20 years' worth of effort.

“I couldn't be prouder of what we, the ‘Pendleside team’, have accomplished together. When I first joined, Pendleside was caring for 350 individuals annually. 

“Today, that number has soared to 1,700. This growth has allowed us to extend our reach and better serve our community, thanks to the unwavering support of our dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters.

"I truly believe that our community has been with us every step of the way, playing an integral role in our journey and contributing to our success.

“Our two biggest challenges over the coming years include the demand on our services increasing and the sustainability of our funding.

"However, as a team, we’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to generate more income, to ensure that Pendleside’s future remains strong.” 

Helen said the community in Burnley and Pendle is "exceptionally generous".

She added: “We are always amazed by the kindness and generosity of our supporters. For example, our December Light Up a Life event, also hosted by many other hospices across the UK, ranks among the top 10 successful campaigns.

"Your ongoing support and participation in events like these ensure that we can maintain our vital care for patients and their caregivers in our local area.”

 “Whether it’s months, weeks, days or a few hours, Pendleside is committed to enhancing people's quality of life. 

“It's not solely about caring for people at the end of their life, and while that is highly important, it’s also about supporting people to live a fulfilling life as much as they can.

"I find joy in coming to work every day; no two days are ever the same.

“While some may assume it's a sombre environment, patients and their families often leave the hospice with cherished memories and moments of happiness.”