'Wigan lad' tackling a new challenge with Jospice

By Simon Hart

"I knew I was coming to a place that was really appreciated by the local community." Mike Parr is explaining just what drew him to his new job with Jospice, the Thornton-based hospice established in 1974 by Father Francis O'Leary. It is a place, he can see, "with a lot of history" and Mike, who took over as chief executive in December, is eager to help maintain its impressive traditions in the face of the changing demands on health-care providers.

The 52-year-old, who had previously spent four years as a corporate director of the Wigan & Leigh Hospice, appreciates there is a shifting landscape and is ready to meet the challenge of continuing the fine work of the now retired Keith Cawdron, the former chief executive.

Mike, who is grateful for his predecessor's guidance during his first weeks in the job, says: "Certainly there is a need to evolve the services that we already provide because of the way that patients have changed over the years. For example, people live longer and are likely to present as more complex cases and take more looking after and one example of that is dementia. So to evolve our services to meet those new and emerging needs in the local community is one of the challenges.

"A day hospice would be a wonderful service," he adds. "Patients would be able to come in on a daily basis rather than be residential. They could commute in and out of Jospice to receive a range of services – complementary therapy services; potentially some clinical, like outpatient consultations; and personal care services for people, like hairdressing."

Another possibility for the hospice, which has 29 beds, is to work with the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group in providing specialised services in the community – "for people in their own homes", as Mike puts it.

Whatever lies ahead, Mike can already sense the good will found locally towards his new place of work – as illustrated by a recently announced initiative with the Crosby Coffee company which will be donating some of the profits from its Guatemalan coffee to Jospice's San José hospice in the Central American country. "They are going to donate 30 per cent of the profit they make from the coffee to Jospice International."

Mike can also call on his own rich experience of the charity sector, which he stepped into straight from university. "I've worked in social housing. I've worked with charities that support learning disabilities. I've worked for an environmental charity." In that latter role, as executive director of the Groundwork Trust in East Lancashire, he involved disadvantaged members of the community in environmental regeneration schemes. It was as close as he has got in his professional life to his first love of Zoology – the subject of his degree, before a subsequent Master's in Strategic Leadership and Management.

Outside the office, though, he does get close to nature. "Scuba diving and cycling are my main interests," reveals Mike, who as a "Wigan lad" has a passion too for rugby league. "I played for Shevington Sharks and Standish Eagles but am long retired," he notes. "I just watch rugby now." Tackling his new role with Jospice is the challenge now.

• To buy Crosby Coffee's Guatemalan coffee and support Jospice, visit the website: www.crosbycoffee.co.uk/products/guatemala-cosecha-crop. Crosby Coffee is based at 14 Bridge Rd, Waterloo, Liverpool, L21 2QG.

Photo: George Foster, chair of trustees (l), welcomes Mike (r) to his new role as chief executive of St Joseph's Hospice, aka Jospice.