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HeadSmart wins major NHS Innovation award

We are delighted to announce that the HeadSmart campaign, launched in June 2011, has won a prestigious NHS Innovation Challenge Prize worth £100,000 in the Earlier Cancer Diagnosis category.

Original and significant breakthrough

At a ceremony in London on Tuesday 12 February, representatives of HeadSmart campaign were presented with the prize which is awarded for the achievement of an original and significant breakthrough in the early diagnosis of cancer.

HeadSmart, a campaign from The Brain Tumour Charity along with the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at The University of Nottingham and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children.

The campaign is funded and promoted by The Brain Tumour Charity.

Prize money

The prize money will be used by the Nottingham research team to:

  • Revise the guideline during 2013 with the most recent published evidence
  • Contribute to the research costs of the programme’s evaluation
  • Develop training packages to enhance training for students, trainees and established practitioners in primary and secondary care in medical, nursing and allied professionals

Accelerating referral

The HeadSmart Campaign was launched to accelerate speed of referral across the UK by reducing the interval between symptom onset and the brain scan necessary to make the diagnosis, which was previously measured as a median interval of 14.5 weeks. Recent information collected across the UK CCLG RN treatment centres shows this interval reducing to 7.5 weeks. There are also signs of improvements being detected in timing of referral from primary care to hospital for scanning.

Lead clinician on HeadSmart, Professor David Walker from the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre said: “We are delighted to have won this prestigious award, which recognises the considerable impact of HeadSmart Be Brain Tumour Aware campaign on public awareness of the symptoms of brain cancer in children in the UK, and beyond. Brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer for children and adults under 40 years of age. Delays in diagnosis for children and young people are a particular clinical problem as the symptoms are similar to other common children’s illnesses, and are affected by age and behaviour changes associated with growth and development.

On-going evaluation

“This innovative campaign is the product of sustained collaboration between academic, professional and charitable partners, communicating directly with the public and the profession to raise awareness of symptom clusters, to support parents to raise initial concerns and to support the doctor in providing reassurance where appropriate, selection of patients for early review and identifying those who need immediate referral for brain scanning. Criteria for reassurance have been a particular focus of valued feedback from the profession, there is no current evidence of scan over-usage.

“We believe that accelerating diagnosis will significantly contribute to measurable improvements in outcomes for this vulnerable childhood group in due course. It is currently too soon to expect to measure these. We will be looking for reductions in early deaths and disability as well as enhanced confidence in the NHS in this area of paediatric practice. The Campaign will have on-going evaluation to measure these aspects and the prize money will be very helpful to assist with this.

“Brain cancer, across the age groups, is an under-funded area of research in the UK, we believe that HeadSmart Be Brain Tumour Aware campaign will help further to raise awareness of this very serious group of cancers and their devastating ability to disable and threaten lives of children and adults across the ages.”

Motivation, determination, dedication

The NHS Innovation Challenge Prize Expert Panel, which judged the award, was impressed with the HeadSmart team’s ‘admirable motivation, determination, dedication, enthusiasm and leadership’ and noted that the project was impressive in design, delivery and engagement of the groups and agencies needed to be mobilised to make a difference.

National Clinical Director for Cancer and End of Life Care Professor Sir Mike Richards also had praise for the HeadSmart project. Professor Richards, who has recently taken on the role of Domain Lead for Preventing People from Dying Prematurely at the NHS Commissioning Board, said: “I believe this to be a worthy winner and that an Innovation Challenge Prize would help to drive this important work forward — thereby saving lives and reducing morbidity.”

Huge achievement

Sarah Lindsell, CEO of The Brain Tumour Charity said: “We’re honoured that the HeadSmart campaign has received the NHS Innovation Award. It not only shows the huge achievement of the campaign thus far but also recognises the ongoing work that the campaign still has ahead of it to reduce the diagnosis times of brain tumours in children and young people. Working so closely with those affected by this devastating disease, we see first-hand how significant such a campaign can be and we are immensely proud that the success of the campaign has been recognised with this award.”

The campaign relied upon the National Cancer Research Institute Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Research Network (NCRI CCL RN) Clinical Champions in each of the treatment centres to raise awareness amongst patients and their families, local paediatricians and general practitioners. They also collected crucial information from patients as they were diagnosed to measure the changes in referral practice to drive the campaign.

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