A team effort all round - Hope for Tomorrow's Mobile Chemotherapy Units allow cancer patients to receive treatment
in a restful environment closer to home, saving stressful long distance travel and minimising waiting times.

Effective charity management as the way forward

We have had no choice but to have effective, and indeed discerning, management in our charity. When you read this you will appreciate that the scale and challenges of what we do, including the need to evaluate the quality and performance of our partners and suppliers, require us to be very good at managing both ourselves and the situations where we work with others.

Apart from anything else, we invest very considerable sums in equipment and we simply can't afford to get this side of it wrong - plus we can't afford for there to be any waste of these assets through any failings on our part. But we are a team in our charity and we never forget it.

Hope for Tomorrow is a dedicated charity with a single aim: to bring cancer care closer to patients. Working in partnership with the NHS, our state of the art Mobile Chemotherapy Units travel to different locations around their area, helping reduce journeys, waiting times and the stresses and strains of busy hospitals for cancer patients.

We will have 11 units operational by the end of this year and aim to have at least one unit in every county by 2025. Hope for Tomorrow was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category, this year.

I founded Hope for Tomorrow in 2003, following the sad loss of my husband David to cancer. During his treatment I had been struck by the difficulties we faced in travelling long distances for chemotherapy, including the terrible frustrations of hospital parking and long waiting times.

I wanted to help people undergoing chemotherapy in a practical way and I decided to approach Dr. Sean Elyan, consultant oncologist and medical director of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with my ideas.

Shared vision

To my delight I found we had a shared vision: to bring chemotherapy closer to patients. Together we developed a pilot scheme that resulted in the 2007 launch of the world’s first Mobile Chemotherapy Unit (MCU), in a unique partnership with the NHS. Launching the world’s first of anything is no easy task, and this was no exception.

I will always be grateful to Dr. Elyan for his constant support and dedication to Hope for Tomorrow and our vision. His guidance has been invaluable, particularly in relation to our dealings with the NHS.

Today we are the proud owners of ten well equipped, state of the art Mobile chemotherapy units around the country, and our fervent wish is to have at least one unit in every county by 2025.

Hope for Tomorrow builds, owns and maintains the units, which are operated by highly trained NHS staff, who travel through their areas of operation to places where the service is needed most, visiting local Community Hospitals and other easily accessed sites such as supermarket car parks or community centres.

The units allow cancer patients to receive treatment in a restful environment closer to home, saving stressful long distance travel and minimising waiting times. Up to 20 patients per day can be treated on board, and I’m delighted to say that patients report a more sociable, less stressful experience.

Travelling easier

Travelling and parking are easier and less costly and patients can enjoy a cup of tea and a chat on board. We’ve worked hard to make sure that the experience of being treated on board is as pleasant as it can be, and we’ve responded to what patients have told us about what they need.

For instance, we have installed lifts for those unable to use the steps up into the units; there is a private area for nurses or patients needing a moment to themselves, and there are always biscuits on board. The nursing staff appreciate the calm atmosphere of the units and getting to know the patients.

Our first patient to be treated in Somerset said: “Today I felt a little low but after being treated on the bus I felt I could fly again.” Words like this are very special to me and my passionate team.

For our NHS partners, the benefits of increased capacity and flexibility of service are clear: Hope for Tomorrow’s MCUs provide the means for up to 15 per cent of an oncology department’s activity to be completed on board, with the capacity to administer up to 2,000 treatments per year, per unit, saving thousands of miles of travel per year and hours of time.

There were many challenges along the way to launching the first unit. My background, along with my husband, was in motor racing PR and management, not in running a charity, so I had to learn as I went along.

Motor friends

However, my contacts and friends in motor racing have supported me all the way - the late Jack Brabham, along with Sir Stirling Moss and Derek Bell, became the first patrons of the charity and it still enjoys the loyalty and support of many well known figures in the motoring industry.

At our recent "Legends of Le Mans" event at the Hurlingham Club in London, motor racing journalist Simon Taylor interviewed drivers including patrons David Richards, Ross Brawn, five-times race winner Derek Bell and Martin Brundle. We raised over £65,000 for our charity and another charity.

As a charity, we sell nothing; we provide the infrastructure for NHS partners to provide service delivery and our contracts with our NHS partners are renewed on a three-year basis.

Customer categories

Our customers fall into three categories – NHS partners, patients and funders/supporters:

  • NHS PARTNERS. Our practices are designed to ensure that we monitor the performance of our NHS partners, following the number and types of treatments administered on board the Mobile Chemotherapy Units.

    The NHS Trusts submit regular reports on MCU activity, and our operational team has two formal review meetings per year per NHS partner in order to establish operational status and address any issues. We run an online forum to encourage information sharing and best practice.

  • PATIENTS. Our NHS partners share the information gathered in "friends and family" test data. Medical staff also ask patients to complete patient case study forms which the charity provides. This information enables us to prove need and measure the impact our units make. It also helps provide reassurance to other patients about the service and any improvements that might be needed.

    Research into the principle of administering cancer patient chemotherapy via mobile treatment units was conducted by the West of England University; the results were published in October 2011.

    The research gave evidence of patients’ advantages and benefits when receiving treatment at Mobile Chemotherapy Units as defined from travelling to and from hospital. It was established that the maximum waiting time for patients on the MCU was 15 minutes.

  • FUNDERS/SUPPORTERS. We respect our supporters’ privacy and do not share their data with any third party. We mail supporters who have requested it three times a year with our charity newsletter, and on occasion for local events. We do not use street fundraisers, telephone or door-to-door fundraising. We believe that if we treat our supporters with respect they will support the charity over the long term.
  • Our Mobile Chemotherapy Units cost £260,000 to build and are bespoke, state of the art units. We only start the build once we have the commitment of the NHS Trust partner which requires it and there are stringent criteria for the agreement to supply, including a pre-qualifying assessment, the partner’s need for the service, capability, capacity and commitment.

    Board approval

    We require from them a board-approved business case as well as details of their background and objectives, their experience and suitability, their ability to deliver and their vision.

    Our coach builder for our second generation units was appointed following a tender process which was designed to ensure that our units are fit for purpose for future developments in the field of chemotherapy and other cancer-related treatments. Each unit is maintained by the charity through a supplier which we have worked with for over nine years.

    They provide 12 weekly services and ongoing maintenance and repairs. Feedback from existing NHS partners helps us to improve future designs; we see this as an opportunity for a cycle of continuous improvement.

    None of this work would have been achieved without the commitment of the team at Hope for Tomorrow, including our core team operating from Gloucestershire, our trustees, our patrons and our ambassadors. When I started the charity I was on my own; now I have a passionate and dedicated group of people around me.

    Strong team

    As founder and trustee I lead a very strong team headed by two senior managers who lead the operations, communications, fundraising and accounts teams. We are a small organisation; we all work together as a tightly knit team; and in my experience and as quoted in "The Little Blue Book", New Philanthropy Capital, February 2010, the biggest asset for any charity is its staff

    We have a strong board of trustees with a wide range of business skills. The board of trustees has signed off a carefully structured national expansion for the charity and is committed to supporting the our targets for extending this very worthwhile project right across the country.

    I believe charities are often created out of personal experience and have a desire to cut through obstacles in order to achieve change. At Hope for Tomorrow we have stayed true to the original need that I identified when I went through the experience of supporting my husband through his cancer treatment.

    Inner strength

    When I started the charity I found an inner strength, which helped me through adversity towards my dream. As the new book “Grit”, launched in May 2016 by award winning psychologist Angela Duckworth, says: people can achieve remarkable things not just by relying on innate natural talent but by practising “the Power of Passion and Perseverance”.

    That has helped me enormously and I am proud that our team at Hope for Tomorrow also have these qualities and dedication to the charity.

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