Five minutes with  Dr Jane Collins

Five minutes with Dr Jane Collins

Providing care and support for people with terminal illness up and down the country, Marie Curie is there when people need the charity most. Named after the pioneering scientist, the charity cares for tens of thousands of people every year. We caught up with chief executive Dr Jane Collins to talk diversity in the palliative care world, creating a caring culture and how to keep the third sector thriving in times like these.

Describe your organisation’s purpose

The purpose is to provide care for people with terminal illness. We achieve this purpose through our community nursing services and our nine UK hospices.

In what ways does Marie Curie collaborate with others and why?

Our collaboration revolves around the work we do with the NHS and independent hospices. We do so because it’s the best way to provide the services to those who need us. We also use our hospices as a base for staff that belong to other organisations, like the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Support. We are proud to have created these hubs where everyone who works in palliative care can feel properly supported.

On the non-service delivery side of things, we collaborate with a lot of other organisations to fund and support research into improving end of life care.

How would you describe the culture at your organisation and how do you maintain it?

The culture is extraordinarily caring and supportive – mirroring our work as we look after people at difficult periods of their lives, those who are dying and their families.

Does your organisation do any work in your local community?

As our hospices are based within their local communities, naturally they work with the local population. Our staff and volunteers are made up of people from these communities too, so there is a big focus on what we are doing in these areas in which our staff and volunteers live and work.

What is the main thing that attracts talent and retains talent in your organisation?

In my experience, I have found that what attracts and retains talent is giving people real opportunities to develop their skills. We still have a way to go, but we have undoubtedly made inroads in ensuring that people have development opportunities and access to learning new skills.

If you take your foot off the pedal and fail to offer people opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillset, you’ll lose them and lose that organisational knowledge.

In your experience, what is the best way to build diverse teams?

When I first started – and we are based in London – I was really surprised by the lack of diversity in the office. Although it has improved, so we are starting to benefit from diverse views and experiences, we still have a lot to do.

When I visit our hospices in cities like Cardiff and Bradford, it’s great to see greater diversity in the teams. is, but I want to see more of that across all that we do.  To do so, we’ll encourage people from different backgrounds and with different skills to not just apply to the charity – but to support them in their progress while they’re here.

The palliative care world is still very white and that undoubtedly has an impact on who applies for the roles. We are also very female dominated with 85% or so female staff. Our Trustee board has given us the challenge to do better.

What would you say represents the biggest opportunity for your organisation in the next five years?

The NHS is under a lot of pressure. The economic situation for the whole country – and the third sector in particular – demands we find ways to carry on delivering our care but at a lower cost. That doesn’t necessarily sound like an opportunity, but it does mean we have to think innovatively about what we do and how we do it. I think there’s an opportunity in that to deliver great things and set the charity up to thrive over the long term.

What does a Vibrant Economy mean to you?

An economy that gives people of all backgrounds and skills the opportunities to contribute to society.

If you take your foot off the pedal and fail to offer people opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillset, you’ll lose them.