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One year later – are we still on track?

13th May 2024 - Helen Rowntree

Back in 2022, Blood Cancer UK created a new five-year strategy. We made a commitment back then to shape that strategy alongside the Blood Cancer UK community, and to give regular updates. We're now at the end of year one, so it’s the perfect time to stop, reflect and consider whether we're on track.

Blood Cancer UK's CEO, Helen Rowntree, holding a Blood Cancer UK coffee mug in the office and smiling.

Our commitment

Our strategy has a singular and clear purpose, which we set out two years ago:

Everything we do in the next five years will be based on a single aim – to stop people dying of blood cancer or its treatment.

Simple, clear and concise. This goal won’t be reached overnight, but if we deliver everything in our strategy, it could mean that the day when no-one dies from blood cancer, or its treatment, becomes that much closer.

How are we doing?

When we launched our strategy, we said that we’d measure our progress in ten ways. The good news is that Blood Cancer UK is moving in the right direction.

Here’s six ways we’ve succeeded:

  • We've funded more research
    Over the last year we've funded more research than we have in each of the past four years, spending £7m in research awards. We now offer different types of awards which means we can reach researchers from a wider range of backgrounds. All this means we fund a wider variety of research than before, covering all types of blood cancer across the whole country.

  • We raised more money than expected
    We set out with the ambition to raise £15.3m, and we finished ahead of target at £16.9m. The last year has been one of huge uncertainty, a cost-of-living crisis, competition and charities closing down. We’re proud that our community have rallied together and raised far more than we’d expected in these tough times.

  • We reached more people with blood cancer
    Once again, we’ve increased the number of people with blood cancer that we’re in touch with. In four years’ time we’re aiming to reach 75% of people affected by blood cancer.

  • Staff are thriving and doing their best work
    We remain a great place to work with 99% of staff saying they would recommend us as a great employer.

  • We're getting the word out
    The percentage of people with blood cancer who say they are aware of us has increased from 39% to 51%, a huge increase which means that we can reach and support many more people.

  • Blood cancer is becoming better known
    More people are aware that conditions such as myeloma, leukaemia and lymphoma are all types of blood cancer than before. That’s important, because as we’ve previously said, people who aren’t aware that they have a blood cancer risk missing out on vital support.

Our president, Simon Thomas, introduces a new research project

What have we learned?

There are a few measures where we haven’t done exactly what we said we would do. But we think that’s OK, because we’ve found a different way to make sure that what we’re doing has the most impact for people affected by blood cancer. For example:

  • We said we would publish a report stating how much the sector spent on blood cancer research, to help us work out the part we needed to play to get others spending money on life-saving research. We haven’t done this, and instead have put our energies into some of the biggest partnerships in our charity’s history. We partnered with the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society in the US, bringing an extra $3m to fund UK-based research that otherwise may not have been possible. That’s something we want to keep doing over the next four years.

  • We’ve taken a little longer to publish our Blood Cancer Action Plan, which will set out how the UK might make the fastest progress to the day by which blood cancer is beaten. This is because we’ve been working with partners to make sure that the report is underpinned by the very best and robust evidence – which has taken a little longer. The report will be published in July and will examine varying survival rates both in the UK and internationally. Publishing this report will allow us to focus much more on highlighting and fixing inequalities.
Two people smiling and holding lanterns under a moon-lit sky at a Walk of Light event.

What to look out for in year two...

It won’t surprise you that at the top of my to-do list are two (in theory) very simple objectives – raise more money and fund even more research. But there are four other initiatives which I’m also excited about:.

  • We have just launched our Transformational Research Awards. These are ambitious £1m awards to support advanced pre-clinical translational research, clinical studies or trials, or the establishment of evidence required for the uptake of improved treatments or technologies into the NHS. We’re planning to make three awards this year.

  • We’re relaunching our fellowships programme, to ensure that we’re investing in the next generation of blood cancer researchers.

  • The launch of our Blood Cancer Action Plan in July promises to be a watershed moment for the charity. For the first time, we’ll have a report that will showcase inequalities both within the UK and between the UK and overseas. It will also give us a plan for what to do about them, thereby giving us a roadmap towards a future where many more people survive their blood cancer.

  • Finally, thanks to the generous support of BMS, we’ll be funding an important new project to measure and recruit more people from minoritised ethnic communities into clinical trials.

The most exciting thing is that we’re barely getting started. But we can’t hope to deliver all of this without the support of our amazing community. So, I’d like to say thank you for every bucket you shake, every marathon you run, every panel event you attend, every bake you sell…I could go on! Blood Cancer UK only exists because of the collective efforts of everyone in our community, and I’m so thankful to each of you. As I wrote when I took on this role, if our history teaches us anything, it’s that a community of dedicated people can change the world.

I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together over the next four years, and beyond.

Our strategy to beat blood cancer

Everything we do in the next five years will be based on a single aim – to stop people dying of blood cancer or its treatment.

Read more