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Chairing Through Change: Reflections from Professor Judith Ellis

8 December 2021


I commenced as a Trustee of THET in 2015 having been encouraged to apply by a previous Trustee who was a nursing colleague. In 2016 I was delighted, if rather wary, to be appointed as the Chair. I now found myself responsible for ensuring the visionary principle of partnership, so passionately established by Sir Eldryd Parry, would continue to strategically underpin every aspect of THET’s future activity. Eldryd, a true gentleman, never interfered as we faced the many challenges ahead, but he was always there to guide and to support. 

The six years have flown by, and it has certainly been an exciting albeit occasionally frustrating rollercoaster with many ups and downs, one that I have not just survived but enjoyed because of the people taking the ride with me. I have had the honour of serving with the most amazing Trustees who over the years have hailed from ever more diverse professional backgrounds and locations, with two LMIC-based Trustees recently being recruited. Lord Nigel Crisp became our first inspiring Patron and we have frequently turned to him and our Honorary Advisors for expert advice. However, my greatest pleasure has been working alongside incredibly motivated and able staff from all around the world. Their enthusiasm and energy have allowed us to build upon THET’s strong foundation to strengthen our position as a globally respected charity.

THET is now recognised not only as a charity which embeds ‘principles of partnership’, trusted to manage partnership programmes in LMICs and to successfully deliver initiatives which help tackle global challenges like antimicrobial resistance, but is also revered as a thought leader. In the last six years THET has provided high quality toolkits for good practice, for example, on safeguarding, innovation and gender equality and social inclusion. It has stressed the mutual benefits of partnership work and volunteering, and produced reports and vital guidance for policy makers that have meaningfully addressed contemporary issues, including ethical international recruitment, recognising the vital contribution diaspora NHS staff make to global health, the transition from aid, and so much more.

We have remained small which has allowed for flexibility and agility as we have pivoted to support health professionals in the face of global crises. Most recently, this has included responding to Covid-19, military coups, conflict and political instability. THET has become a resilient and sustainable charity that is making a real difference in the world. I am very proud of all that has been achieved by THET and its partners in the last six years but can take none of the credit.

I have seen my role of Chair as ensuring good governance, allowing the THET team to safely rise to every challenge that has come our way, endeavouring to make sure we never lose sight of our vision and strategic direction.

Six years ago, THET was dangerously dependent upon UK government funding, and we have since moved to diversify funding streams. This placed a spotlight on the need to evidence our impact not only on LMICs but also on the UK, and has reinforced our efforts to monitor and evaluate every aspect of our work. This is still a work in progress, and I am sure the incoming Chair of Trustees, Justin Ash, will be better able to strategically guide this work. Together we have managed to secure enough unreserved income for the consistent employment of a core staff team, but what is now needed for stability and growth is longer term funding for programmatic activity.

THET’s reach has expanded during my time as Chair; we now have staff in ten countries compared to five. Through the innovative use of technology, such as the development of our community platform, Pulse, and the delivery of highly successful online conferences, our impact extends much further.

In addition to my role as Chair, I have eagerly grasped opportunities to engage in Health Partnership activity as a paediatric nurse leader, and have also carefully planned holidays which have allowed me to meet some of our in-country THET teams on home turf. These visits have been inspirational and also humbling, as I have heard first-hand from government officials and health professionals the impact that THET partnerships are having upon the health workforce and healthcare systems.

Over these six years, THET has conclusively demonstrated the important role it plays on the UK and global stage. It is with personal sadness that my time as Chair of THET has to come to an end, but I am also very excited for THET knowing that it is the right time to hand over to Justin, who brings the expertise that THET now requires to move forward. I wish Justin, all the Trustees, Ben, the Senior Management Team and all staff the very best as they commence the next exciting rollercoaster ride.

My greatest pleasure has been working alongside incredibly motivated and able staff from all around the world. Their enthusiasm and energy have allowed us to build upon THET’s strong foundation to strengthen our position as a globally respected charity.

This post was written by:

Professor Judith Ellis - Outgoing Chair of the Board of Trustees

1 Comment

  • Maura Buchanan
    10 Dec 2021 08:44
    Judith, You ave been a great Chair, a wise leader for THET during some difficult years. Thank you and best wishes for whatever ventures you have planned for the future

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