Charles Hackett steps up to chair St Luke’s Board of Trustees
Charles Hackett has been announced as the incoming chair of St Luke’s Board of Trustees. A dedicated member of the board for nearly five years, he promises to hold the ship steady as the organisation settles in a new chief executive in 2023, following the forthcoming retirement of Steve Statham.
Charles takes over with immediate effect following the departure of highly-respected previous chair Christina Quinn last month. He brings a rich combination of leadership experience and skills to this important role, honed during a long career in the pharmaceuticals industry and in Plymouth as chief executive of the transatlantic Mayflower 400 cultural project. He is currently CEO of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.
“It’s my mission to bring in a great new chief executive to take the reins of the organisation, and I will be here to make sure it all goes well,” said Charles.
“St Luke’s is in really good shape – it’s not an organisation that’s looking for someone to come and fix it. The board and I will not be looking for someone to sweep in and change everything, although we know there will always be evolution in providing the best service possible for our patients, their families and the community.”
Charles’s journey to St Luke’s
In an unusual twist, Charles first became acquainted with St Luke’s when he applied for the chief executive’s job back in 2016, at the same time as Steve Statham, who will retire in April.
“Needless to say, I didn’t get the job – and that was absolutely the right choice – but I was still very interested in the organisation,” he said. “Having had a chat with Steve to congratulate him, a little while after, he and Christina came and asked me if I would join St Luke’s Board of Trustees and I said ‘yes’ immediately.
“I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into understanding what St Luke’s does. It’s the very best type of volunteering I could do, with the highest value. And from a career development point of view, it’s given me great experience of working with a charity.”
Charles is comfortable steering organisations and is well versed in finance and management. As a trustee he has worked mostly within income generation.
“I am no expert in palliative care and that side of what the organisation does, but we have excellent people on the board with very strong clinical experience. As chair it’s about knowing what is important and leading the group to ensure we achieve the very best for the patients and the community.”
Charles’s previous experience of health comes from a completely different perspective. For more than 18 years he worked for GlaxoSmithKline where his impressive career path began in analytics and progressed into research and development, commercial direction and general management.
“It was a wonderful career. I got to travel, and I morally liked work that I thought was important. We were making things that were changing people’s lives for the better. I was able to drive ethical programmes and change, working with development organisations.”
He finished his tenure with GlaxoSmithKline as a Vice Chairman, leading the global launch of a high-profile new medicine developed by the company, with a poignant personal connection.
“It was a long-acting dual bronchodilator for treating COPD, which was the disease that my father died from. I led that globally for a year and that was quite an important culmination for me,” said Charles.
“As you get more senior in a pharmaceutical company your impact becomes widespread and very far away from patient impact. I wanted to shift into something more community based that would let me invest in the region I am in.”
Born on Guernsey to a Dutch mother and a British Army officer father, much of his childhood was spent at boarding school in Cheltenham while his parents followed Army postings. Charles’s work had also been fairly nomadic, with periods in the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Slovakia.
In 2016, he and his wife, Miranda, an event florist, decided to set down roots in South Devon with their two children, moving to their home near Ivybridge, “down a dead-end road between the moors and the sea”.
Charles searched for a job with an organisation like the RNLI, a hospice, an air ambulance or an outward bound type organisation. After missing the St Luke’s opportunity, he was persuaded to catch a curve ball and lead the five-year Mayflower 400 project, which sadly was unable to turn out as planned, because of Covid restrictions, but was nevertheless a very positive international endeavour.
In June this year, he was delighted to be appointed CEO of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, a post he sees as complementing the knowledge he has gained being a St Luke’s trustee, and one sharing common frustrations in terms of the national health and social care system.
“Like St Luke’s, the air ambulance is a combination of charity and vital healthcare provision that would otherwise be missing. There are strains and challenges in the system, but I am an optimist by nature and I believe we have to stay true to our values and our mission and concentrate on what we are supposed to do well, which is supporting our patients and their families.
“We are people who try to live with purpose. It is challenging and it is exhausting… but it is also the biggest satisfaction in life.
“As we go into winter in a tough economic climate, more people in our community will be needing help from charities and funding income will be a challenge for maybe 18 months or more.
“But we are an innovative organisation and we have our strength in our community – St Luke’s is so loved and people know we will be careful with how we spend our money.”
Learn more about our Board of Trustees here.