Rebecca Wood, the CEO of Tom’s Trust, recently spoke about the exciting news of the impending launch of the new service at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. As a leading figure in the charity sector, Rebecca is passionate about improving the lives of children with brain tumours and their families. In this interview, she discusses the impact that the new centre will have on the lives of those affected by brain tumours, and the vital role that Tom’s Trust has played in making this project a reality.
Why Alder Hey, and why now?
We have had ambitions for quite some time to open our third service at Tom’s Trust. Alder Hey is obviously a fantastic hospital. It has real engagement with the people in the area. So that was really exciting to be able to do. They had a real vision as well that we felt absolutely gelled with what Tom’s Trust wants to do, which is to move from crisis management which means only anything crucial to get them through while they were in hospital and nothing else, to moving forward, providing a proper proactive model that helps the child to fulfil their full potential and really helps the whole family around that child. They had a real vision of that. I thought that was really impressive. The whole idea as well of equity of provision, including being available to people who might not have access to private provision to try and eke that out, that was really important to us as well.
It’s Europe’s busiest children’s hospital. So we knew we were going to be able to help lots of people within that. It’s got a good neurosurgery team as well, so we knew that therefore they would be able to supply all of the clinical psychology side to that, to really help children have proper guidance and help throughout their life, not just from diagnosis and help with well-being in hospital, but how they then continue to live their best life possible with all of the changes from tumour and treatment.
It’s a very traumatic experience, not just being ill, but the fear of what happens if your tumour comes back, what’s going to happen to you in the future, how do you catch up? After you’ve missed so much school, how do you cope with your friendships as you get older? Your cognitive abilities have altered a lot and your whole life experience has changed.
Linking with our other centres
Alder Hey is already looking at how they can link in with our Newcastle service, in the Great North Children’s Hospital, and we’re so pleased that we’ve been able to recruit Sarah Hampton, who is our local fundraiser and communications person, who will be on the ground to engage with those families and begin to tell the story around the region about how much work we can do as Tom’s Trust to really help those who need it.
The Alder Hey team are very passionate about the families and about particularly trying to have that equitable feel to it so that everyone gets the same sort of help. That is really important to us.
Three posts already in place
One of the most exciting aspects is our immediate launch of Alder Hey with three established positions, allowing us to make an immediate and significant impact.
By bringing the team together, we can formulate our strategy for the entire region. Considering the vastness of the area, our focus will be on generating information that caters to North Wales, stretching all the way to Cheshire. This includes areas with severe deprivation, where our assistance can make a real difference. To me, this is a crucial aspect. Because of the great neurosurgery team at Alder Hey, we know that these children will have had the best possible surgical outcomes and, with our support, they will have every opportunity to recover mentally and live their best lives.
Is there a target with Alder Hey in terms of how many children and how many families you can support?
One of the things that we’ve learned as we’ve been developing our service is how important our impact figures are. Alder Hey will be carrying out an early benchmark and they have a very clear view about how many more children they’ll be able to help as a result. We hope that because they’re a big hospital we’ll learn from those services andbe able to roll those out in other regions.
Are there any plans for any more after Alder Hey?
Yes, absolutely. With Tom’s Trust, it’s always down to our income. When can we afford to do it? But we absolutely already have our next service lined up. And we’re looking forward to announcing that in due course. But we’ve got to be ready and able to do that. Liverpool is a big centre. As I say, we’re starting straight away with three members of staff. For us, the important thing is making sure that we’ve got funding in place to make sure that that works really well. But we’re very keen to launch our following service and that will be really exciting to be able to do. And again, it’s the multiplier effect. It’s not just individual services, it’s the way they work together and they’re keen to do that too. So that’s really exciting to be able to pull all of them together to get a coherent way of supporting these unique children.
We know that it’s a region with a big heart and with some fantastic community assets like the football clubs and the work that they’ve done there. There are some generous philanthropists in the area who are really passionate about the region and we really want to engage with them to help us and to help families locally to have the best possible service and to see what can be achieved.