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Why businesses’ support is crucial to keep local charity’s cancer units on the road

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Last month, Gloucestershire-based charity Hope for Tomorrow launched their 14th mobile cancer care unit (MCCU), heralding not just a significant feat in next generation state-of-the-art healthcare innovation, but standing as a testament to the many businesses that made it all possible. This is however just the start of the journey, as more funding is central in keeping each unit on the road.

Designs on innovative healthcare

Since the design and launch of the world’s first mobile chemotherapy unit in February 2007 in Cheltenham, Hope for Tomorrow now employs 14 people and operates a 14-strong fleet of MCCUs throughout the country, working closely with NHS Trusts to deliver crucial cancer treatment and care to the heart of communities. The build of its last project, the recently launched next generation unit for Airedale NHS Foundation Trust in West Yorkshire, took three years from start to finish. It was made possible by a generous grant of £747,764 from global pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), which will also go towards funding another unit. Bence Coachworks undertook the build of the unit, manufactured at their site in Yate.

This has enabled the charity to further evolve its care delivery model because for the first time in a mobile setting, it offers the invaluable opportunity for NHS staff to provide life-saving information, such as self-examination guidance from specialist breast care nurses, alongside daily clinics, cancer screening and a variety of treatments. Investment in digital innovation means it can fully connect to the main hospital site if needed as well as operate remotely, moving from location to location.

The real journey begins

While the steely ambition and unwavering commitment of the team driving Hope for Tomorrow has seen the charity’s vision to make a difference to the delivery of patient treatment come to fruition, the real success of the units is down to public and private donations. The independent charity, which has no government funding and ‘competes’ against 600 other cancer charities, wholly relies on donations and support from families affected by cancer, corporate support, grants, trusts and legacies.

While the build is key, the real story then begins, with the maintenance and running of the units pivotal to each MCCU’s continuous operation. Just to keep each unit on the road costs £198 per day alone.

Beyond the build

Other businesses including IT communications provider Tier One, Eurolink Connect, Ontic, Gloucester Care Providers Association (GCPA), Premiere Kitchens and SoGlos have all become involved, with Think Systems pledging to fund the nurse support vehicle for the new mobile cancer care unit for the next four years.

Tier One has been working with the charity for just over a year. Director Paul Richards explained: “Hope for Tomorrow works with such passion; it’s exciting to see the units evolving with technology. It’s a great stepping stone towards winning the fight against such a devastating disease. Cancer is close to my heart and we’re all about supporting where we can.”

Simon Lythe, Head of Marketing at SNG Barratt UK met the charity earlier this year and donated the use of one of its vintage vehicles as a major prize in the auction at their recent gala dinner, a gesture he hopes will mark the beginning of an ongoing partnership: “It is such a compelling cause, and we wanted to set up 2022 in a positive way by committing to supporting the charity. As the world’s largest independent manufacturer and supplier of Jaguar car parts with a huge international reach, we’re in a privileged position to be able to offer Hope for Tomorrow a global communications platform with access to 100,000 of our customers. It’s so important for organisations at a similar level to leverage their market power for the benefit of charities, there is huge potential for further funding and support.”

Louise EquimediaLouise Burgess, Co-Founder and Director of Cirencester-based digital marketing agency Equimedia, agrees: “There are communities in need everywhere we look and so anything that companies big and small can do to help is important. I feel it is a duty of businesses to reach out to communities and wider charitable causes to do their bit to make sure everyone who needs help, gets it.”

Louise became a Trustee of the charity just over three years ago before becoming Vice Chair of the Board this year, ensuring communication flows between the charity team and the Board. “When I heard what they do in partnership with the NHS I was interested. The more I found out the more I was convinced that what they provide is an absolutely crucial service for the NHS and their patients. My personal decision to get involved was made easier as I lost a close friend to pancreatic cancer and know how arduous the travelling to the hospital was on top of the gruelling chemo treatment she needed, and how much it would have helped her if she could have received treatment on a mobile unit locally.

“After I joined as a Trustee, we decided to support Hope for Tomorrow as a business too, through things like Google analytics, SEO and Facebook campaigns. We also ‘pay for a day’ contributing £198 a month to ensure a mobile unit is on the road and delivering the service where it is needed.”

She continues: “The team at Hope for Tomorrow is small and lean and what they achieve with the money they raise is astounding. The launch of the innovative next generation mobile unit is so exciting as for the first time, NHS professionals will be able to reach communities that have traditionally been difficult to engage. The more people we help the NHS reach, the faster diagnosis can happen and the better the treatment outcomes.”

Quedgeley-based creative agency Brace chose Hope for Tomorrow as its main charity two years ago. What struck a chord with Sales Director Nick Bracey was the convenience the units afforded the patients. Nick commented: “I read how one patient would’ve had to have driven a 300-mile round trip every week for her treatment, and she said knowing how much chemo takes out of patients, she didn’t know how she would’ve coped without Hope for Tomorrow. Knowing what a difference the charity was making, we felt compelled to give our support.”

Since then, the company has undertaken various fundraising activities and events, including a Charity Golf Day in June which raised £12,000, and a Santa challenge which raised £4,000.

He continued: “For businesses, working with charities is a great motivator for staff, we’ve seen how our team have become completely immersed in the cause. It’s a great way to establish a meaningful, two-way partnership and even on a basic level, is a big tick for CSR too.”

Support across the board

There are also other factors to consider when it comes to funding which go beyond healthcare, even down to the provision of financial advice and benefit support to patients on the next generation unit. Organisations including Citizens Advice and Be Clear on Cancer are investigating how they can offer such services.

And then there’s the Hope for Tomorrow staff. ActionCOACH Cheltenham provides CEO Tina Seymour with regular business coaching sessions to assist her in leading at the charity’s helm.

Billy Smith, Senior Coach and Managing Director said:We are keen to give back and took our time to find a charity we wanted to support. When Tina joined us at a business coaching seminar and made the connection with us, we were delighted to learn more about the important work she and her team are doing towards cancer care in the region.”

Organisations’ ongoing support is without doubt the lifeblood of charities such as Hope for Tomorrow, to ensure cancer patients can continue to have mobile access to vital lifesaving treatment within their own communities, something that is making a real difference to many lives.

 Find out more about about how your business can support or work with Hope For Tomorrow here


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