Two managers reveal to Maura Thompson the challenges and benefits of working in very different areas of the independent sector

Tom Hill, 49, is director of administration, Northern Ireland Hospice, and project director, Northern Ireland Hospice Children's Service.

Salary: 'Comparable to an NHS post of equivalent seniority.'

Tom Hill: ' I am very frustrated by the failure of successive governments to equitably fund. . . the whole hospice movement.'

Describe your current job

I am a member of a three-person directorate, comprising the medical director, nursing director and myself.

We share responsibility for the efficient management of the Northern Ireland Hospice, giving strategic direction to the organisation, formulating and monitoring annual plans and budget, quality control and service development. I also have sole directorial responsibility for the children's hospice project.

The Northern Ireland Hospice launched a£5m appeal to build a children's hospice in February 1998. The appeal now stands at£4.3m and building work started in February 2000.

The hospice employs around 120 full-time staff and approximately 200 part-time and casual staff. In addition, we are fortunate to have the services of around 600 volunteers.

What was your career path?

I qualified as a chartered accountant in 1977, having obtained a degree in economics from Queen's University in Belfast. For the next 14 years I worked as a chartered accountant in practice.

I became the hospice's administrative director in 1991.

The appointment of an assistant director in 1998 afforded time to establish a specialist paediatric service for children with life-limiting and terminal illnesses - a wonderfully satisfying project.

What attracted you to this job?

The role had the potential to satisfy my social conscience while using my professional skills and experience.

How many people work in your team?

There is one assistant director, eight functional managers and 56 staff covering all aspects of income generation and support services. I mustn't forget my personal assistant who successfully manages to keep us all on the straight and narrow.

How many hours a week do you work?

My contract says 37, but it is probably more like 47 to 50, and the job involves a lot of evening and weekend engagements - committees and social, networking and fundraising events.

What is the most satisfying part of your work?

The fact that no two days are ever the same and being part of a team that makes a difference to the quality of life (and death) of so many people.

What is the most frustrating thing about your job?

I am very frustrated by the failure of successive governments to equitably fund the work, not only of the Northern Ireland Hospice, but the whole hospice movement. In 1991, a commitment was made to 50:50 funding of all independent hospices. However, the state only contributes an average of 32 per cent to the independent hospice movement. The figure for the Northern Ireland Hospice is 19 per cent.

What is the biggest challenge you face in the coming year?

Bringing the children's hospice building work to completion and trying to secure equitable government funding, both for it and the existing adult services. There are also challenges associated with tackling strategic gaps in current palliative care for adults and managing the tensions arising from the mixed demands and expectations of the various stakeholders. As the hospice grows and develops, the management of change presents huge challenges for everyone involved.

How do you relax?

I go to the gym a few times a week - trying to get fit for 50! I play a mean Chopin and can lose myself on the piano for hours. I enjoy theatre, reading, good food and wine. I am also one of those people who bring out the worst in motorists - I have a caravan. I am at my best in July when, with my wife Lilian, we usually tour France or Spain.

What has been the high point of your career?

Hearing the father of Joy Campbell, the little girl whose story helped launch the children's hospice appeal, pay tribute to my work at her funeral. Joy's story first appeared in the press in February 1998. She died on 15 March 1999, aged 13.

If you had chosen an alternative career, what would it have been?

A master chef, running my own little, very exclusive and very expensive restaurant.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably still within the voluntary sector, though possibly not in hospice work.

Could you imagine working for a private hospitals group or healthcare insurer?

I have no hang-ups about private healthcare, so there would be no ethical block. Many of my skills would be directly transferable, and technically I could do it well.

Raj Vasudevan, 37, is head of hospital and specialist contracting at BUPA, based in London.

Salary: 'Confidential'.

Describe your current job

I work for BUPA, within its private medical insurance business. My role is to manage a contracting team which works in partnership with nearly 400 hospitals (private, charitable and NHS) to ensure that our customers receive high-quality and cost-effective care.

What was your career path?

Unusual - I worked in newspaper publishing and had first contact with the NHS as a carer of a relative who was receiving an unsatisfactory service. It was through this route that I became involved in NHS management. I had a number of posts in the NHS from 1990-97, covering hospital management and acting as a health authority purchaser during the internal market. My last NHS job was as head of acute services at Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham HA.

What attracted you to this job?

The job I applied for in 1997 was to develop BUPA's commissioning of tertiary services in areas such as oncology and cardiac care. My imagination was fired by the vision and energy behind the job, and from the minute I started I knew it was the right move.

How many people work in your team?

I have 11 positions in my team and 10 players. Like Kevin Keegan, I am looking for that rare person who can play on my left side.

How many hours a week do you work?

About 55.

What is the most satisfying part of your work?

Working with hospitals in ways that will directly benefit the customer. For example, we have undertaken quality assurance programmes in areas such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer that I believe will really improve the quality of care for our customers.

What is the most frustrating thing about your job?

I think that sometimes people regard the NHS and private healthcare sectors as being in competition when they are really complementary and interdependent.

What is the biggest challenge you face in the coming year?

Customer expectations about quality and value-for money are increasing on a daily basis, especially with the Internet and its ready access to information. We must always strive to exceed these expectations.

How do you relax?

By letting my daughters climb all over me and pretending that England will one day win a major football tournament.

What has been the high point of your career?

Developing the specialist networks for BUPA in breast care and cardiac services because the learning experience was amazing, and the benefits to the customer were significant.

If you had chosen an alternative career, what would it have been?

Difficult to say. Healthcare is my spiritual home.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still in healthcare, but I think jobs like mine will be substantially different due to the challenges posed by ecommerce and advances in medical technology, especially in fields such as genetics.

Could you imagine working in the charity sector?

Yes - I am not really driven by the idea of sectors, but more by what they achieve.