Funding crisis for Brain Tumour Support

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Tina Mitchell Skinner, left, set up Brain Tumour Support after losing her husband 17 years ago. Jane Edwards, who received help from the charity after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, said: “Brain Tumour Support helped me put my life back together.” Inset, Andi Nethercoat.

A charity that supports brain tumour patients and their families has launched an urgent appeal in a fight for survival.

Brain Tumour Support, which helps thousands of people across the country, has had to furlough most of its staff and suspend much of its service. Hundreds of vulnerable people could be left without support if vital funds are not found in the next two months.

Andi Nethercoat, from Lighthorne, lent his support to the appeal – called Together We Are Stronger – after the charity supported him following a life-saving operation in 2014.

He said: “So much changed for me after my operation and for three years I thought nobody cared. There was no real after-care from the hospital. I was low. I’d had to make so many changes in my life and I was depressed.”

But then Andi found a local group run by Brain Tumour Support.​

He said: “Every time I went to the support group, I came back feeling energised and motivated. It was amazing for me to find so many people who had gone through similar experiences as I had. I learned more about brain tumours in my first support group meeting than I had learned in the previous three years.”

As well as emotional support and friendship, the group helped Andi in practical ways too. “I thought I didn’t qualify for benefits, but I was put in touch with the local Citizens Advice Bureau and they helped me get that sorted out.”

The future of Brain Tumour Support looks uncertain as the coronavirus crisis takes its toll. Tina Mitchell Skinner, who founded the charity 17 years ago after losing her husband to a brain tumour, said: “It breaks my heart to know that there are patients and families out there that need our help but we do not have resources to support them.

“Brain Tumour Support has grown every year to help more people. We had exciting plans to further extend our support services and then the pandemic hit.  This also coincided with funding from Macmillan England coming to an end, so for us it was a double blow.

“We rely solely on voluntary donations and have an amazing army of fundraisers, but most of the events and activities they were planning have had to be cancelled or postponed so our income has plummeted.”

The cash crisis coincides with a huge increase in demand. The lockdown has not only increased isolation for brain tumour patients, it has also delayed many people receiving diagnoses or treatment.

Brain Tumour Support has adapted its services to try and help as many people as possible. It now offers a limited number of video chats instead of support groups and runs a telephone support line and online support forum. But in order to survive, it says it urgently needs donations.

Tina said: “We are currently working with over 1,500 patients and carers requiring critical and intensive support, with many more waiting for help. As well as patients who need our help, many NHS staff are also supported by us, as we provide a service that they simply do not have the resources to provide.

“Supporting us with a donation now, more than ever, will enable us to navigate through this devastating period so that we can survive and continue to provide our crucial services now and in the future.”

To make a donation visit the charity’s website at www.braintumoursupport.co.uk/appeal.