Farewell to our outgoing Chair of Trustees

As we welcome our new Chair of Trustees, Professor Nick Maskell, we sadly must also bid a fond farewell to our outgoing Chair, Professor Mick Peake.

Professor Peake steps down from the board of Mesothelioma UK after a distinguished 17-year association with the charity, with many highlights including his award of an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List. The OBE was given for the impact that his work has had on improving the care and outcomes of patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma in the UK, and his contribution to the development of the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service.

A story of success

Mesothelioma UK spoke to Professor Peake about his time with the charity, what prompted him to get involved and his hopes for the future:

“Before I became a consultant chest physician in 1982 in the Yorkshire area, Pontefract and Wakefield to be precise, I hadn’t seen a case of mesothelioma, but one of the first patients I treated there was a lady with mesothelioma who worked in a notorious asbestos factory in Leeds.

“Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of patients over the years since, and in recognition of this increase, nurse Mavis Robinson, who’d done a lot of work on mesothelioma, set up a helpline in Yorkshire for patients and established a network of interested nurses.

“I moved to Leicester in April 2000, Mavis was looking to retire and (now Mesothelioma UK CEO), Liz Darlison and I began to talk about who could possibly replace Mavis in this role.

“Incidentally, one of the best things that I’ve done in my professional life was appointing Liz; she’s had as much, if not more impact in her specialist field as any other healthcare professional I know.

“Although we didn’t see a lot of mesothelioma cases in Leicester, there was a growing list of external specialist referrals and inspired by Mavis, we set about developing a national support service and helpline.”

Security of funding enables early growth

Mick continues: “We formed the National Macmillan Mesothelioma Resource Centre (NMMRC) in 2004 to act as the new helpline and funding was critical. Macmillan generously provided core funding for the first three years and the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and the University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust have both been very supportive, all the way through.

“Raising funds was very scary early on but the centre grew very quickly and soon became a vital resource for mesothelioma patients, their families and clinical teams.

“It will come as no surprise that Liz was ambitious and we continued to bring money in to support further activities, with resources boosted again when Jill Lemon joined us.

“We became a formal charity, Mesothelioma UK in 2009, developing a new website and eventually employing our first of a growing team of dedicated mesothelioma nurse.”

A grand journey

“We originally just wanted to establish a robust helpline, building on what Mavis had achieved in Leeds. None of us expected to be where we are today.

“I’m so proud of how the charity has evolved and how we’ve expanded over a relatively short period. The helpline continues to receive very positive feedback; our nurses, although small in number for a UK network, have increased the charity’s profile and grown expertise for the mesothelioma community by becoming real patient advocates; a commitment to research has involved academics, doctors and clinicians; and more patients are getting to see top specialists sooner after receiving their diagnosis.

“I can’t think of any group within the field of cancer where relationships between healthcare professionals and patients have been as broad – it’s really unique.

“Mesothelioma UK has positioned itself as central to this ‘community of care’. We’ve built up a really good team and they, with Liz’s direction, have done the real work to achieve this. It wouldn’t have worked without them.”

A new Chair of Trustees

“When I took the difficult decision to step down, we also thought about a possible replacement for me – someone with a high national/international profile, someone who cares and has proven expertise. Nick ticks all of these boxes and many more. He’s thoughtful and articulate, and very well published in the areas of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“We all have a great deal of respect for Nick and I’m very comforted that I’m handing over the reins to someone who will undoubtedly help to take the charity even further.”

Hopes for the future

“As for the future, my hopes for the charity are that we continue to make sure that every mesothelioma patient gets the best support and care available; that we can build up specialist MDTs; employ more nurses; raise awareness of the disease; look to work in partnership; and raise income to fund all of this.

“I personally want to thank all of the fantastic individuals who’ve supported us over the years, from local fundraising events up to large corporate donors. Indeed, a new national HQ has been secured, thanks to one of our great supporters.

“It’s been very much a community effort; with patients, families and carers, nurses, researchers and consultants, other healthcare professionals, fundraisers, donors, stakeholders and partners all combining to create a community of care that didn’t exist before.”

A tribute to Mick

Liz Darlison, Mesothelioma UK CEO added: “I have been fortunate to work closely with Mick for over 20 years. I consider meeting him back in 1999 as the biggest stroke of professional luck; it changed by career path completely and I shall always be grateful to him.

“Mick’s passion and commitment to patients, his ability to engage with anyone and everyone and his knowledge has always and continues to astound me. It feels a little scary not having him officially ‘on the team’ but this day was always going to come (he’s a few years older than me) and Mick knows I will always pick up the phone when I need advice or a sounding board.

“Thank you, Mick for being so strong and for believing, for being so approachable, your honesty, the years of sticking with it all and above all for being such fun to work with. I know at times I have been ‘impossible’ but wow, look what that community of care has achieved!”