The Board of Trustees of Shooting Star Chase is delighted to welcome Nigel Harding as its new Chief Executive.

Nigel brings over 20 years’ experience in senior appointments in medical and palliative care, more recently as Chief Executive of St Joseph’s Hospice and Chief Executive of Woking and Sam Beare Hospices.

Ken Hanna, Chairman, said “The board is delighted that Nigel is joining Shooting Star Chase.  He has a deep understanding of the sector and we are looking forward to working with him to lead the next phase of the charity’s development, and continue to provide the high quality, safe and effective care that life-limited children and their families need.”

Commenting on his appointment Nigel Harding said “I am honoured and privileged to have been chosen as the Chief Executive of Shooting Star Chase.  The charity provides a lifeline to families facing unimaginable circumstances and we must continue to develop our services to support the growing needs of children with complex conditions.”

Piers Vimpany, who has been Finance Director for Shooting Star Chase since 2012, and more recently Acting Chief Executive, will be leaving shortly to join the charity Revitalise as Finance Director.  Shooting Star Chase would like to thank Piers for his leadership, dedication and significant contribution over the last six years, and wish him well in the next chapter of his career.

Nigel kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us how he’s finding his time at Shooting Star Chase so far.

Welcome, Nigel, how are you finding your first few weeks at Shooting Star Chase?
It’s really exciting and really intense because I’m absorbing so much that’s new and the challenge that I find in the first few days is remembering everybody’s names and what they do. In a word though, it’s brilliant!

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve had a career of two halves, firstly, around 20 years in the Arts where I started off as an actor and then went into Arts administration, being heavily involved in organisations like the English National Ballet, Accadaemia Italiana and the London Symphony Orchestra. I helped build a new theatre for new writers, called the Soho Theatre Company.
A mentor in my life, actor Richard Wilson, was a Trustee of St John’s Hospice and the hospital in St John’s Wood, and, just after I’d finished raising enough money to build the Soho Theatre he asked me to come and do some Marketing and PR for his charity. I was going to do it for 6 months and ended up being there for 8 years, eventually running the place! So the next 20 years have been in healthcare, running hospices and hospitals both in the UK and internationally. So there are absolutely two sides to me!

How do you feel about being involved and working with a children’s hospice as opposed to an adult hospice?
I think there are real differences but also real similarities. At St Joseph’s Hospice, where I was CEO, we had 40 beds, 35 of which were end-of-life, and 5 were for respite care, so I think that’s the main difference to that of a children’s hospice. What is similar is the quality of care and the focus on whole families. What I have found here is all the staff are incredibly happy and smiling; everybody seems to be really happy and joyful and true professionals as they hide some of the stress they must, at times, be feeling.

Has anything surprised you during your first few days at Shooting Star Chase?
I think within the hospices, Christopher’s and Shooting Star House, it’s the amount of laughter there is, huge amount of laughter. I must admit, I was initially a bit daunted about seeing children who have a life-limiting condition but I have found them to be so inspiring, they really are, they just get on with life and that’s it. And the families, I hold them in huge admiration for what they are going through and the support they are giving their loved ones; and then the staff, how they integrate with families and almost become part of that family.

What do you think is the most challenging issues facing children’s hospices at the moment?
Its finances, absolutely the finances; then meeting the unmet need out there. You can only meet the unmet need if you have a really good and strong financial base, so part of my job is to make sure that is in place, and I’m inheriting a really well run organisation. However, one of the challenges I’m going to be faced with is trying to support fundraising to get more income, but, much more than that is to actually try and get our statutory fundraising increased – from what is a very low base. The average government funding across the country for an adult hospice is to the tune of 33%, Shooting Star Chase is currently 10% – there is a real inequity there so I will do my best to get more money in from that source. Perhaps a visit from our politicians would help them focus their minds on how we support our communities and take pressure off other fully funded government organisations.

What motivates you?
Really making a difference and seeing it. In any healthcare institution, if you walk along, speak to the patients and their families and hear from the children and families you see what difference you do make, you see the immediate difference. It affects not just the individual, but the whole family. So to see the difference we can make to a family is what I really enjoy.

How do you like to relax?
I go to the gym, which I find relaxing. I used to run a lot but don’t do that so much anymore. I have recently discovered the joys of gardening and find it fantastic and really therapeutic and relaxing. I also love theatre, concerts and the visual arts so you will often find me at one of those.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Albert Einstein because I was rubbish at physics at school and I would love him to explain his theory of relativity to me; JFK because I am a great fan of what he tried to achieve, Winston Churchill because I think he was a larger than life character and a fantastic politician and strategist. Dame Kiri Te-Kanawa because she had such an amazing voice; Elizabeth Frink because she was an amazing sculptor and some of her sculptures look just like me – they are big guys with bald heads! And Angelina Jolie as I admire her for what she does, she’s a very strong woman.

If you were a Friendlie – which one would you be and why?
It would have to be Professor Popplepants of course! He has an eye for business, works hard and is in touch with his creative side too!