Reflections on being Chair
Reflections on being Chair of the UCH Nurses’ League and UCH London Nurses’ Charity
had been a committee member for many years before I had the absolute privilege of chairing the UCH Nurses’ League for 6 years and then, for the last 3 years, the UCH London Nurses’ Charity. It has been a pleasure to work alongside my fellow trustees, including President Ann Redmayne, and to help shape the strategic direction and activities of the charity for the benefit of members and ultimately patients, families, carers and communities.
Following my predecessor Anne Coffey was a challenge. Anne had led the League brilliantly for many, many years, serving as both chair and secretary for much of that time. I will be forever grateful for her kindness, understanding, support and guidance in the first year of office.
As a League committee member, I have very many happy memories of the three years of work to create the League centenary celebrations which took place in 2009 – long evenings in Anne Remayne’s living room with a group of committed members, strong freshly brewed coffee and the most delicious home-made shortbread I have ever tasted.
The centenary celebrations were superb and it was a joy to meet Princess Alexandra, but most importantly, it was so uplifting to be amongst the family of hundreds of UCH nurses who all had a common understanding and experience of nursing. I also had the opportunity to meet many of my nursing heroes, long since retired, who had taught me so much in my student years and who had helped me to become the nurse I am today.
In the years that followed, and as the Chair, I remember that the League committee debated long and hard about our financial sustainability, how we could become more supportive and relevant to nurses starting out their career at UCLH and how both issues might be helped by applying to become a charity. We consulted with members; we listed; we proposed the changes; members voted to become a charity.
And then we began the long process of application. I had no idea just how complex, tortuous and lengthy a process this would be. The whole application was overseen by Lesley Hicks, the Charity’s wonderfully skilled Treasurer and involved more long evenings in Ann’s home completing hundreds of pages of application forms with evidence of our proposed purpose and functions and discussing the requirements of the charity commission. It was recognised by our legal advisers that it is easier to become a new charity with no background and history than it is to convert a membership based nurses’ league to a charity.
With all credit to my colleagues in this endeavour and in particular Lesley Hicks, her husband Alun (an accountant) and son James (solicitor) we were successful in our application. My abiding memory of one of the most painful moments in the process was the NatWest bank in Camden Town, where Ann Redmayne, Lesley and I were shut in a backroom for what was promised to be an hour but which became three and a half hours of form signing for the bank accounts of the new charity.
I also have very happy memories! These include working with the fabulously talented Pat Edmund who was instrumental in the organisation and delivery of the centenary celebrations and the two events each year we hold in London. If you ever wondered who manages the events behind the scenes look out for Pat arranging fresh flowers on your table, liaising with the venue and ensuring we all have the best experience when we come together.
I have enjoyed working with all my fellow trustees and recognise the critical part they play in ensuring the charity meets its objectives. They give tirelessly of their time and it has been a pleasure to be the chair, attempting to maintain order and keep us all on track during the meetings. I am only too aware that the meetings are like the tip of an iceberg with trustees working hard behind the scenes like Judith Jackson, Charity Secretary, modernising our processes and keeping the office working smoothly.
Now I have mentioned some trustees, I am at risk of not mentioning them all! My thanks then: to Sian Lavers, Minutes Secretary, who makes sure we have an accurate record of the meetings, that we keep focused on educational support and who has been the loveliest, kindest friend since the day I started my training at UCH; to Alison Finch and Hilary Baker, both very senior nurses at UCLH who work tirelessly and creatively to maintain and develop a close and supportive partnership between the charity and the hospital; to Wendy for her longstanding support of the charity in so many roles, including in distribution of the Benevolent Fund and support for Lesley Hicks in the Treasurer role; Mags Currie for her many years of secretarial support and keeping us all laughing when times were tough; to Karen Lloyd for maintaining the shop and ensuring we have the right products at the right price in the right quantity; to Janet Likeman for her editing skills, corporate memory and reminders of our origins and roots; to Ann Redmayne for conducting her presidential duties so expertly, her leadership of the Benevolent Fund and her friendship over the years; the invisible army of volunteers who are working with trustees in the office to ensure that the charity functions to meet the needs of associate members and other beneficiaries.
I am delighted that at my last meeting as chair we agreed that the Charity would fund the UCLH preceptorship badges and the December celebration for the preceptees who had taken their first role at UCLH after qualifying as a nurse. This provides the Charity with a good connection with those who are new to nursing and might benefit from belonging to a family which is based on the UCLH experience.
I am extremely grateful to Professor Helen Allan who has now taken over as Chair of the Charity. I know that she will bring a new energy to the team of trustees and she is full of excellent ideas for the development of our work. I am so pleased too that the magazine is in the very capable hands of new trustee and editor Dr Elaine Maxwell with whom I have shared many happy memories of our UCH days in the 1970s – albeit that our paths never crossed as student nurses!
I am confident that there will be many more initiatives coming forward to develop the Charity to the benefit of a new generation of nurses and the people they serve.
My thanks to all my past committee colleagues and to my fellow trustees; it has been a pleasure to work alongside you and I look forward to continuing to support the work of the Charity as an associate member.
Crystal Oldman Set 228