Jeanette Whitford, who returned to her beloved Shropshire last year, will take over at Severn Hospice from Tony Cordery, who has stood down after six years in the role.
Jeanette said: “I am completely honoured – it is an extraordinary place, doing wonderful things for people.”
Professionally, Jeanette’s career saw her work as chief probation officer in a number of counties around the UK, and she also helped to set up the Probation Chiefs Association.
Outside of the workplace, Jeanette was a founding trustee of the Friends of Conakry Refugee School and is a trustee of the Butler Trust, a smaller national charity which makes awards to people working in the criminal justice system.
She was also a founding trustee of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity which covered the Bristol and Avon area.
Jeanette spent almost a decade as a lay panellist for the Fitness to Practice panel for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which gave her an insight into the work of the nursing profession.
But it is the work of hospices that is close to her heart – her seven-month-old daughter Emma died of a rare genetic neurological disease more than 40 years ago.
At that time there was no support for families going through the same experience, but Jeanette knew what a difference such an organisation could make.
“Hospices were in their infancy when Emma died, there was no end-of-life support. We were just left to get on with it,” she said.
Jeanette has been a Severn Hospice board member since March, and has also had personal experience of the hospice’s specialist care as it looked after her best friend Mandy de Winter, who died in 2018.
“When I saw how Mandy and her wife Judy were treated, it really touched me. At the hospice, it’s not just about the person with the life-limiting illness, it’s about how to support those people around them. I was deeply moved by that. It would have been quite a different experience for us when we lost our child if we had had that level of support,” she said.
Pledging her commitment to the hospice as its new chair, she added: “I want to do my absolute best for the hospice, supporting everyone else who works there and makes it the best in its field. I will do all I can to honour Tony's considerable contribution.”
Welcoming her appointment, hospice chief executive Heather Tudor, said: “Our trustees bring so much knowledge and expertise to the table, all of which they do so as volunteers. Jeanette brings with her a depth and breadth of experience that will be of enormous benefit to the hospice as we develop our services further and I look forward to working with her. Tony has set the bar very high!”
Paying tribute to the outgoing chairman, hospice president Sir Algernon Heber-Percy, said: “We have been hugely fortunate with all of our chairmen that we have always had the right person at the right time.
“Tony has steered the hospice with great skill and wisdom in what has been a period of change and challenge for us. He can be proud that he has helped lead the hospice to its newest achievements – an expanded and enhanced community nursing service and the completion of our ‘Living Well’ buildings at Shrewsbury and Telford.
“His kindness and enthusiasm was always apparent whenever you saw him at any hospice event, whether for staff or volunteers. He was especially interested and supportive of our shops, a key source of income for the hospice, and I think his genuine appreciation for everyone in the retail team instilled in them an even greater sense of pride and purpose.
“He has freely given us eight years of his time, six as chairman, and I thank him on behalf of the hospice and all the families who have benefited from our care during that time.
“In welcoming Jeanette, I look forward to building on Tony’s legacy and working with her on the next chapter of the hospice’s story.”
Tony added: “It has been an honour and a privilege to be associated with Severn Hospice and I wish it every success in the future.”