Newcastle Hospitals’ brain tumour centre has been named a national ‘Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence’.
The newly introduced status, awarded by the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, follows rigorous expert-led assessments, and recognises the outstanding care and treatment staff at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provide for patients with brain cancer.
With around 370 people in the North East and North Cumbria diagnosed with brain cancer every year, there has never been a more important time to recognise the work of the teams that help patients and their families through their brain tumour journey.
The Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission was founded by former Labour cabinet minister Baroness Tessa Jowell who died aged 70 after battling brain cancer in May 2018, alongside her daughter Jess Mills.
“Mum’s mission throughout 50 years of her political life was to tackle systemic inequality”, said Jess. “So, it was tragic whilst fitting, that her final campaign was a call to arms to create universal equality in access to excellence in cancer care throughout the NHS. It is with immeasurable pride that just 3 years later, the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission has begun the real-world translation of that vision into reality.
“We are thrilled to have awarded Newcastle Hospitals for its excellent ongoing work for patients and commitment to support other centres in reaching the same level of Excellence.
“Shockingly, the UK still has one of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe, but in time, the Tessa Jowell Centres will make the UK a global leader in the treatment and care of brain tumour patients. We have a long way to go until the cutting edge of science is delivered to every patient, but this is a huge and transformational first step.”
The “Excellence” status provides reassurance about the availability of excellent care within the NHS and positive recognition for its staff who, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, continue to go above and beyond for their patients.
Newcastle was measured on a range of criteria, including its excellent clinical practice and training opportunities; emphasis on patient quality of life; providing clinical trials and offering a high standard of research opportunities.
Led by a committee of experts in the field and virtual site visits, the assessments were backed up by patient feedback about the care they received. It is one of ten hospitals across the UK to receive the recognition.
Damian Holliman, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Neuro-oncology MDT Lead for the Newcastle Hospitals says:
“This fantastic honour will mean so much to the patients of the North East and Cumbria knowing that they are receiving care in a centre of excellence. The wider Newcastle/North East neuro-oncology team are delighted that there is recognition of their efforts to provide such a high standard of care.
“It is the Geordie “shy bairns get nowt” tenacity of so many members of the team that has resulted in the holistic, integrated multi-disciplinary care pathway for patients and specialist interventions such as bevacizumab for symptomatic radiotherapy effects.
“We look forward to supporting the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission in its aim to promote excellence in care for brain tumour patients and assisting the Tessa Jowell Academy in disseminating evidence of great practice. No one unit gets everything right all the time so we know there is a lot we can learn and hopefully help other units too.”
Founded to design a new national strategy for brain tumours, the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission is committed to helping as many hospitals as possible achieve the “Excellence” status in the future. To achieve this, the mission is launching the Tessa Jowell Academy, a national platform allowing hospitals to share best-practice to improve their services, as well as one-year fellowships for doctors to further specialise in brain tumours.
“To be designated by the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission is a great honour for the team,” adds Dr Joanne Lewis, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Freeman Hospital’s Northern Centre for Cancer Care.
“The recognition of our “human centred culture of kindness and compassion” was the highest compliment we could have wished for. I am excited by the opportunities we have to push forward change for brain tumour patients, we are also keen to adopt best practice and learn from the Tessa Jowell Academy. This award has made us even more determined to give our patients the best possible care.”
Newcastle Hospitals’ Chief Executive Dame Jackie Daniel is delighted to see the team’s efforts rewarded with Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence status and says:
“Our cancer services here in Newcastle have a fantastic reputation, which is very much down to our talented teams and state of the art technology we have invested in here in the North East.
“To receive national recognition as one the top brain tumour centres in the country is testament to the commitment and compassion of our wonderful neuro-oncological team. The care they display each and every day is second to none. I’m incredibly proud so see them honoured with this award which they so richly deserve.”
Professor Katie Bushby, Emerita Professor of Neuromuscular Genetics at Newcastle University has been working with the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission on the assessment and designation of the centres. She drew on her personal experience of the brain tumour centre where her husband was treated when he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same brain tumour as Baroness Tessa Jowell, just over two years ago.
Katie explains: “My husband Jimmy Steele (who was Professor of Dentistry and Head of the Dental School in Newcastle) was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in December 2015. Like Tessa Jowell, he lived less than two years following the diagnosis.
“Brain tumours are a relatively rare form of cancer, and progress in developing curative treatment options has been slow. Which makes it especially important that the team caring for you is really aware of your priorities and enables you to live well even under the most challenging of circumstances.
“We got that from day one from the team at the Newcastle Hospitals. There was a fantastic feeling of being absolutely listened to and that every treatment and conversation was totally personalised. Support was there and utterly compassionate every step of the way.”
Having taken early retirement after Jimmy’s death, Katie became aware of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission and realised that this was a fantastic initiative that she would like to volunteer to help.
She adds: “The last year of working with Jess Mills and her team to realise the concept of Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence for brain tumour care and treatment has been really rewarding and I think something that Jimmy (who was a passionate believer in equality of health opportunities for all) would have been very pleased to see happening.
“We have set up a process which has been led by the brain tumour community, experts and patient groups alike. In total 20 centres applied to become centres of excellence and nine were awarded in the first round, though several more were very close. It’s wonderful that Newcastle is one of these first centres, and people in the North East can really have confidence that their care is amongst the best in the UK.
“Moving forward the task is to build even more on excellence, both within the centres already designated and also developing and spreading excellence more broadly so that in the end no patient with a brain tumour is left behind.”Find out more about the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission