THERE is no hiding from the fact that these are difficult times for the Butterwick Hospice, one of the North-East’s best-known charities.

Graham Leggatt-Chidgey, the chief executive for more than two decades, was arrested in May on suspicion of fraud and a police investigation has been carried out.

While a conclusion to the inquiry is awaited, the Butterwick has today unveiled Debbie Jones as its new chief executive.

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She has a huge task ahead to rebuild confidence in the charity but she brings a wealth of experience in health sector management. She must combine exemplary financial leadership with passionate ambassadorial skills.

The ongoing controversy has inevitably left a cloud hanging over the charity. Fundraisers and volunteers have been shocked and staff morale affected. Bridges need to be be built.

But whatever the outcome of the deliberations by the Crown Prosecution Service, there is a bigger picture. In 1979, when her husband died of cancer, a Stockton mother-of-four responded in the most wonderful and extraordinary way. Mary Butterwick sold her home to lay the financial foundations for a place where people could die with the kind of dignity denied to her husband John.

Mary saw beyond her own heartbreak and established an organisation which has provided priceless care for more than 30 years.

Mary died two years ago, aged 91, but her legacy is bigger than any individual. She would be more determined than anyone to overcome the current problems and move forward.

A new chief executive has accepted the challenge of taking Mary’s legacy into a new era and, of course, we wish her well.

Debbie Jones will need all our support – Mary Butterwick certainly deserves it.