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BLOG: Introducing Nick Thomas, the new chair of St Luke’s board of trustees


Nick Thomas, a highly experienced NHS senior manager, has been announced as the new chair of St Luke’s Board of Trustees.

The retired deputy CEO of University Hospitals Plymouth is passionate about quality and believes St Luke’s has a pivotal role to play in raising the standards of end of life care across the wider local system, while maintaining its own well established commitment to service excellence.

He takes over the voluntary role from Charles Hackett, who had been chair since December 2022 and previously served as a member of the board for five years.

“It is a massive privilege to take on a role such as this because St Luke’s has such a huge reputation,” said Nick, who has enjoyed a rich career encompassing multiple aspects of health and care at UHP, including planning, IT, estates and finance.

“You can stop almost anyone on the street in Plymouth and they will have a story to tell about St Luke’s and it’s always positive, which is remarkable. I cannot think of a more prestigious charity to be involved with.”

Originally from Llanelli in South Wales, Nick has lived and worked in Devon for nearly 30 years, becoming part of the community in Ivybridge and in Plympton, where he and his wife now live.

He first came across St Luke’s in the late 1990s as part of a Common Purpose development initiative for board level managers, building a network around how Plymouth is run as a city through core areas like housing and health.

“That is when I first discovered the impact the work of St Luke’s has on end of life care. Then, during my time at Derriford, I became much more aware of St Luke’s.

“At a workshop to discuss health care of the elderly, virtually every example of best practice in end of life care related to St Luke’s; which is remarkable.”

Over the years his attention has returned again and again to the importance of end of life care and a deepening appreciation St Luke’s values around death and dying.

A very personal experience shone the spotlight even further on the importance of everyone having the chance of a “good death”.

“When my father-in-law was coming towards the end of his life he was admitted into hospital. They said he was responding well to treatment and gave the impression he was getting better. No one mentioned the ‘d’ word.

“When I pulled the doctor aside and asked what the prognosis was, he said my father-in-law might recover from his current infection, but then there would be another and maybe another and eventually he would run out of physiological reserve and die. I remember thinking that we need to talk in a different way about this and not give false hope on the premise that it is somehow ‘kinder’. My mother-in-law needed to prepare herself mentally for the inevitable and this sort of ‘kindness’ simply delayed the inevitable reality.

“A pathway coordinator said that he would be discharged into residential care, adding, ‘I’m sorry, but he’s not close enough to death for St Luke’s’. I’m not sure what that meant, but he died a week later.

“I think part of St Luke’s responsibility is to show what good looks like and help others to attain those heights.”

An accountant by training, Nick has most recently been involved in making business cases and business plans and putting commercial projects together.

He believes his experience chairing two other local charities: the Eddystone Trust supporting people with HIV and other blood viruses and Plymouth Access to Housing working with the homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless, will stand him in good stead at St Luke’s.

His other experience includes being a non-executive director at Plymouth Science Park, a member of the Scan4Safety and Quality Improvement national advisory boards, treasurer of Elfordleigh Golf Club and board advisor to Plymouth CIC Engaged Communities.

Trustee and deputy chair Martin Walker said: “All the trustees were delighted to formally approve Nick’s appointment as our new chair. During his application and interview, his leadership skills, charisma and broad experience stood out. Nick brings a wealth of experience from senior NHS management roles, commercial projects, and several positions in the charitable sector. We all look forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

Outgoing chair Charles Hackett added: “I can’t think of a better person to succeed me as chair of the board. Nick is fully in tune with the organisation’s values and the bigger picture of what St Luke’s incredible expertise and strong reputation can offer the broader healthcare system in Plymouth and beyond, and passionate about quality of care.”