From being shot at in army to running St Peter's Hospice

PUBLISHED: 11:59 07 October 2019

St Peter's Hospice's new chief executive Frank Noble. Picture: St Peter's Hospice

St Peter's Hospice's new chief executive Frank Noble. Picture: St Peter's Hospice

St Peter's Hospice

St Peter's Hospice's new chief executive says the role is the 'perfect' job for him as embarks on a new challenge.

The new eating area. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.The new eating area. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.

Frank Noble replaced Simon Caraffi six weeks ago and is 'loving' the 'amazing' new surroundings he finds himself in.

To coincide with Hospice Care Week, Frank told Times editor Tom Wright what it is like in the hotseat.

A new challenge

Frank admits he knew little about hospices until a relative relied on one while ill.

He said the experience completely changed his opinion; rather than being dark places of sorrow, they were uplifting.

So when presented with the chance to lead St Peter's he leapt at the opportunity.

The new eating area. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.The new eating area. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.

Frank said: "I thought that job ticks all my boxes.

"It was the perfect mix of responsibility and reward and I knew I just had to go for it."

Armed forces

A switch from the army to running a hospice seems unusual, but Frank is the second successive chief executive treading that path.

He joined the forces as a Royal Engineer in 1985 where he trained to be a commando.

He served in units including the commando engineer squadron and commando bomb disposal unit, providing support to the UK Special Forces.

One of the quiet areas in the new inpatient unit. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.One of the quiet areas in the new inpatient unit. Picture: St Peter's Hospice.

During his time in the forces, Frank was the engineer commanding officer in Northern Ireland when former Prime Minister Tony Blair signed the peace accords.

Frank said: "While I was working in Northern Ireland it was still very tense. We were regularly shot at.

"We couldn't drive in South Armagh and Belfast as it was still far too dangerous.

"We had to go in and out by helicopter to do the work, which was pretty hairy at times."

He received the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in 2006 for his work in Northern Ireland.

Frank also led the commando bomb disposal unit during the First Gulf War conflict, supporting the world famous Desert Rats.

Frank - who has a fused ankle from a parachuting accident - moved into the business side of defence in Filton. A stint at Clifton College followed before moving to the hospice.

Looking to the future

St Peter's underwent a rebuilding project in 2017 and 2018 with the old inpatients unit demolished and replaced by a state-of-the-art facility for terminally ill patients.

The Room To Care Appeal saw donors contribute £6.5million.

With such a mammoth scheme completed, Frank says his aim is to help the hospice integrate as best it can into the community.

He said: "The organisation has just been through a massive project with the building and opening of the new inpatient unit.

"We now need time to consolidate and give everyone and everything a chance to settle down.

"There is a lot of change going on in the NHS and local clinical commissioning groups.

"As an organisation we need to take a breather and look at where the NHS is going."

Donations

The Room To Care Appeal saw people generously donate money through wills, sponsorships and other means to help the hospice achieve its target it 12 months.

The NHS funds 19 per cent of the hospice's costs, meaning donations are vital to keep it running.

Frank admits, perhaps unsurprisingly, that following such a large fundraising drive that the amount of donations has reduced, but is still struck by people's continued generosity.

He said: "It's amazing how much the public is continuing to support the hospice.

"It's understandable that there's a bit of a drop off. Encouragingly though it isn't a significant one."

Volunteers

One of the aspects which has most struck Frank is the devotion of volunteers to the hospice.

Dozens of charity shops raise money for it and Frank said a visit to its Nailsea store left him in no doubt about the place the hospice holds in people's hearts.

He said: "It's quite something when you come into the hospice or go to the shops and bump into volunteers who have been there 25 years or see someone who has been there seven and is described as a 'newbie'."

Frank believes the human nature of the hospice's work means it 'gets under your skin'.

Real Leadership

Just two weeks before starting at St Peter's, Frank finished writing a book entitled Real Leadership, which looks at the difference between the roles played by managers and leaders.

The paperback is available to buy on Amazon, with money raised from it going to support the hospice.

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