What criteria did you use to select your Centres of Excellence?
A rigorous review process led by a committee of experts in the field, backed up by feedback from patients about their care in these centres through the Brain Tumour Charity. This joint expert and patient-led initiative is the most comprehensive assessment exercise ever seen in the brain tumour field. These Centres of Excellence will stand out due to the ability to go above and beyond to meet patient goals, high standard of clinical care and research opportunities. The programme was led by Emerita Professor Kate Bushby from Newcastle University whose husband Jimmy Steele died with a GBM in 2017. Her working life was dedicated to care and research in rare diseases and the role of centres of excellence and networking in rare disease care.
How did you define ‘above and beyond’ when selecting your Centres of Excellence?
‘Above and Beyond’ will be highlighted by hospitals that; offer excellent clinical practice in surgery, pathology, imaging and chemoradiotherapy; emphasise patient quality of life offer a well-defined level of holistic care; offer clinical trials, collaborate with other centres and encourage patient participation; offer good training opportunities for their staff; act as a site for excellence and innovation in translational and basic brain tumour research. Experts identified current guidelines and how within an NHS environment these could be exceeded to define and metricise excellence.
How many applied to be a Centre of Excellence?
20 NHS Hospitals applied. The aim is that as further rounds of designation are rolled out, all UK centres treating brain tumour patients will be encouraged to apply. We are aware, for example, that at least a couple of centres delayed their applications due to COVID pressures.
How will you ensure that other centres that haven’t received it this time around are able to achieve Centre of Excellence status in the future?
There will be further support for hospitals who did not make it in the first round, as we remain committed to helping centres achieve this status as soon as possible. In collaboration with MPs and the All Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours chaired by Derek Thomas MP, the team made a call for further support. The mission will highlight common areas suffering from underfunding in brain tumour care and will discuss these with the NHS commissioners. The Tessa Jowell Foundation, the charity set-up by Tessa’s family to lead the delivery of her legacy, has announced a fundraising appeal to raise £4M to enable the centres to excel after the network is launched.
Regarding the hospitals that didn’t receive the designation this time around – does this mean that patient care isn’t as good at those hospitals? Should patients living in those areas look to other hospitals?
All hospitals and NHS staff provide excellent care and patients should not be deterred by the lack of TJCE recognition. In all cases where hospitals did not receive the award, we can safely say that they missed out by a small margin and we will be working with them closely over the coming months to ensure they hit all the criteria.
Do patients get to choose to receive treatment at a specific Centre of Excellence, or do they need to live within the catchment area?
All patients within the NHS have the right to request a second opinion. However, due to the nature of presentation of brain tumours and the intensity of treatments, it is usually appropriate for patients to be treated at their local centres. The centres programme is not designed to encourage patients to move around the country but rather to reassure that excellence is shared between centres and disseminated widely
What are the next steps for the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, and for those who have been given the Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence status?
The mission is launching the “Tessa Jowell Academy” a platform to share best-practice across the entire patient journey, encouraging hospitals to learn from each other and further improve their services. The Centres of Excellence will also allow for other innovative solutions including fellowships to train doctors and research and clinical trial efforts. It is hoped that the centres of excellence will serve as a home for these initiatives from which the community will continue to innovate.
How will the chosen Centres of Excellence benefit the centres, patients and wider community?
The Centres will receive positive recognition for their NHS staff who go above and beyond on a national level, raising the profile of the hospitals amongst peers and the patient community and possibly helping with recruitment. The Centres will become part of a national network, with the Academy facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practice across various NHS Trusts. For patients, they will have the confidence that they will benefit from the best possible treatment in their Centre. Patients can also make a conscious choice where to access high quality treatment. Amongst the wider Brain Tumour community, these Centres allow for an advocate for appropriate resourcing, the voice of the community can be amplified by providing thematic feedback to the NHS Commissioning team and DHSC.
When does the Tessa Jowell Academy launch?
The Academy will be launched later this year.
How will the Tessa Jowell Academy provide a platform to share best practices?
The Centres of Excellence will become members of the Tessa Jowell Academy and they will share best-practices and knowledge for NHS trusts and hospitals, across the entire patient journey. This will in turn encourage hospitals to learn from each other and further improve their services. It will be a national network and the Centres of Excellence will also be put in touch with Centres performing very well.
How many people are diagnosed with brain tumours every year in the UK?
More than 12,000 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour in the UK each year, of which about half are cancerous. Many others are diagnosed with a secondary brain tumour.