NR Insights: Helen Lockwood

Having over 35 years of experience working in the public sector, multiple council leadership roles, and invaluable knowledge of the health and social sector, Helen Lockwood is a ‘northern powerhouse’ if we ever knew one. A previous Council Leader at Rossendale and Oldham Councils, Helen recently began her new role as Chief Executive of Bury Hospice.

Our NR team first met Helen when we worked together to progress the regeneration of Bacup town centre over 10 years ago. We caught up with Helen recently to discuss her new role working in leadership during the pandemic and what it takes to be a Council Leader:

“The impact on people due to the decisions we were making became very real”

It’s been a challenging time for everyone during the pandemic and for most councils there were tough decisions to make due to changing legislation, the closing of public facilities and still continuing to do everything to keep the community safe. At this time, it’s understandable that councils had to take a look internally at their own ways of working:

“One of the few good things that has happened as a consequence of the pandemic is that people like myself who were leading councils needed to collaborate and work with health volunteers and communities in a much more joined-up way. I’m naturally a collaborative leader – for me I don’t think my leadership style changed, but my understanding of the impact on people due to the decisions we were making became very real.”

Whatever I did, I did it to the very best of my ability

Retracing Helen’s steps back to the start of her Council career, it was interesting to learn more about how the sector has changed both internally and externally:

“When I started out in my career many senior positions were filled by men – the truth is over the years this has changed and I have benefited by working in various Councils who all shared the same ethos of supporting individuals irrespective of their gender, sexuality or race.    

I decided a long time ago that it was important in whatever I did, I did it to the very best of my ability and as a consequence, I never felt held back or unable to engage within or outside of the council structures.”

The move to Bury Hospice

We were intrigued to find out more about Helen’s move to Bury Hospice. As an organisation based in Bury with links to the whole of the Northwest, the hospice has always been an integral part of our town. Not only does it provide essential care but it brings about a great host of businesses working together.

But, for a Council leader used to being quizzed on terror threats and when the bins will be emptied, it’s an interesting next step:

“Being at the Hospice for just over 4  months I can already see the great partnership we have with local businesses. Some businesses offer their services for free so enabling much needed funding to be spent on patient care. Many other businesses galvanise and raise money for the hospice using their networks to spread the word. I think we can do more though and that will be a key area of activity for me next year – really reaching out and engaging with the local business sector to ensure everyone in Bury knows what we do, why we do it and importantly give them the opportunity to help too.”

“The Hospice is an amazing and resilient place and has been in Bury for 30 years with fabulous support from its business and communities. Over 75% of the funding needed to deliver the hospice services is received by fundraising. This means we have to raise over £3.5m each year and with inflation and the cost of living increasing, this will be even higher next year. So the financial situation facing hospices continues to be a challenge and we need more than ever funding from the NHS to ensure we thrive and continue to do all that we do.

On a day to day basis the ongoing pandemic and all that this brings is a challenge for us all and we are doing everything we can to keep patients, staff and visitors safe – whilst making sure we respond and react to government guidelines.”

We know every industry has faced new challenges during the pandemic and wish Helen the best of luck in her new role.

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