THE chief executive of a specialist charity providing end-of-life care in the Forth Valley is retiring this summer after nearly two decades at the helm.

Irene McKie, chief executive of Strathcarron Hospice, has led the good cause for almost 18 years and this month announced she will be retiring from her post in the summer.

A graduate of the University of Glasgow and with an MBA from Strathclyde Business School, Irene spent more than 25 years in NHS senior health service management roles before joining the hospice in 2006.

Her leadership has seen the hospice and its services significantly developed while patient referrals increased by some 74 per cent.

Ahead of retirement, she spoke of how there has been an increasing shift towards caring for people in their own homes.

Indeed, Strathcarron’s Hospice at Home service, the first of its kind in Scotland, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary later this year while the Live your Life service replaced traditional day care, supporting even more in communities.

Irene said: “In my time here, there has been an increasing trend towards looking after people in their own homes and the majority of Strathcarron Hospice’s patients will never enter the hospice building.

“Across all parts of the hospice, we have increased our staff to meet the challenges of the steady increase in patients seeking our support.”

Irene and the team have been working hard to challenge perceptions around hospice care.

She said: “We provide very specialist support not just in our inpatient unit but across the health system.

“We now support as many people to die in their own homes as in the hospice and many hospice patients are discharged after symptom control; it’s not just a place to die.

“Wherever you are, we want to help you to have as good a death as possible. We are passionate about patient centred care and understanding what matters to you; people still have goals they want to achieve and we need to listen and respond to this, and help them make the best of the time they have left.”

READ MORE: Life-saving heart screening session held in memory of Aiden


Irene has been working to increase awareness for the hospice to be recognised as a hub where people can learn more about living with illness, caring for others as well as dying and grieving well.

The job has “had its moments”, the outgoing chief executive explained.

She never expected to face challenges such as keeping services going during Covid while there have also been financial pressures as funding has not kept pace with the increased activity over the years.

Irene added: “We have seen several periods of economic austerity and still our supporters have bailed us out.

“The support of the communities we serve and many individuals who are often unsung heroes has been humbling and vital. Without all our volunteers and supporters, we would not be here.”

She thanked staff but most importantly the hospice’s many supporters in and beyond the Wee County.

An incoming chief executive is expected to be in place over the summer.