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Bristol Network one of six new NHS brain tumour centres awarded Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence status

Kathreena Kurian, Professor of Neuropathology and Honorary Consultant at NBT, Head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Bristol and a member of the Bristol Network.

Press release issued: 27 May 2022

The Bristol Network, which includes North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, has been recognised as a “Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence” following rigorous expert-led assessments by the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission (TJBCM).

This award congratulates the six new brain tumour centres for excellence in treatment, research and care. This is an impressive achievement as despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, these centres have been able to transform their services to elevate their wrap-around patient care.

With 12,000 people diagnosed with a brain tumour every year in the UK1, there has never been a more important time to recognise the efforts of NHS staff committed to developing and improving brain tumour treatment and care.

The committee found the Bristol Network demonstrated excellent treatment and care across the network and Bristol was recognised for its commitment to service development, in particular the further development of its rehabilitation pathways.

In addition to the excellent patient support at all stages of their treatment, the committee commended Bristol for its neuropathology services. Bristol is a leading voice in the Tessa Jowell Academy and is spearheading the effort to widen access to genomic testing across the UK. 

Professor Kate Bushby, who led the designation exercise, emphasised: “The award not only celebrates the centres’ hard work to push for excellence but also formalises the teams' commitment to continual service improvement.” 

Kathreena Kurian, Professor of Neuropathology and Honorary Consultant at NBT, Head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Bristol and a member of the Bristol Network, said: “It is a complete honour that the Bristol, Cheltenham and Bath network has been recognised as a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence which is the culmination of years of hard work. This diverse multidisciplinary network is led by a highly skilled, dedicated clinical team whose priority is a patient-centred approach for all brain-cancer patients. ”

This initiative is part of TJBCM’s national mission to ensure every patient has access to excellent care, no matter where they live. With the addition of six new centres, there are now 17 Centres of Excellence across the UK. In time, it is the Mission’s aspiration that every brain tumour centre in the UK becomes a Centre of Excellence.

Due to the combined catchment area of these six centres, a further 14 million people now have access to excellent care should they need it, with the centres jointly treating more than 1,000 new brain tumour patients per year.

Jess Mills, Tessa Jowell’s daughter and TJBCM’s Special Adviser has hailed this good news and said: “We are one step closer to achieving this incredible ambition of excellence for all. The reason we are moving forward at this fast pace is due to the combined efforts and commitment of the doctors, nurses and support staff in each of the hospitals.”

To be considered for this award, centres implemented specific feedback from the Mission and made a range of service improvements over a period of 18 months. Highlights include: better access to biobanking, increased nurse staffing, improved provision of care for low grade tumour patients, new nurse-led clinics, further specialised neurosurgery services, quicker turnaround of key diagnostic tests and improved access to rehabilitation services.

All six centres will continue to share their expertise with staff in other centres through the Tessa Jowell Academy, the Mission’s national learning and networking platform. This will ensure that multidisciplinary teams continue to connect with peer centres across the country and learn from each other’s excellence to support service improvement nationally. 

It is hoped that for the 88,000 British people currently living with a brain tumour2, the Excellence status provides reassurance about the availability of excellent care and commitment to improvement in the NHS across the UK. The Mission looks forward to continuing to work with all centres to ensure a culture of commitment to excellence and service improvement.

The list of centres who obtained Excellence status this year include: The Bristol Network (North Bristol NHS Trust, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Trust); The East of England service (Cambridge University Hospitals, Norfolk Norwich Hospital and Ipswich Hospital); Oxford University Hospitals; Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust ; Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; and Cardiff Neuro-oncology centre (Velindre Cancer Centre and University Hospital Wales).

Further information

1  Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/brain-other-cns-and-intracranial-tumours (Data: 2015-2017, UK)

2 Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/brain-other-cns-and-intracranial-tumours#heading-Zero (Data: 2015–2017, UK). Accessed October 2020.

The Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission is supported by the Department of Health and Social Care and brings together leading clinicians and academics, and professional bodies. The mission is supported by Brain Tumour Research, Cancer Research UK, The Brain Tumour Charity, Brainstrust, Brain Tumour Support, The Minderoo Foundation, The Tessa Jowell Foundation, Act for Cancer and the National Cancer Research Institute, amongst others.

About Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission

In her famous last speech in the House of Lords, Baroness Tessa Jowell appealed for society’s big problems to not be put into the “too difficult box”. She campaigned to improve brain tumour research and survival and wished that all patients across the UK receive the best possible care, regardless of where they live. The Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission is a Community Interest Company which designs and delivers a new strategy for brain tumours in the UK. The Mission manages a national programme portfolio of eight programmes focussed on accelerating brain tumour research, building clinical trial infrastructure, elevating care for today’s patients and connecting and training the NHS. The Mission brings together all key stakeholders of the brain tumour community through these programmes and enables them to make a tangible change in brain tumour treatment and research. TJBCM is neither a charity, fundraising nor grant-awarding body.

The centre designation programme is chaired by Emerita Professor Kate Bushby from Newcastle University, whose husband Jimmy Steele died with a glioblastoma in 2017. In line with Tessa’s aspiration of “I hope that cancer patients like me, can live well with cancer, not just be dying of it,” the reviewers paid special attention to neuro centre’s patient quality of life care and looked for a culture of kindness and respect. The Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence will form a world-class network of brain tumour treatment and research centres, providing patients with access to the very best treatment and research opportunities.

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