Charities work together to support head and neck cancer patients 

People suffering the effects of head and neck cancer will receive more support and help thanks to a collaboration between two leading charities. 

The Get A-Head Charitable Trust has awarded grants totalling £24,000 to the Swallows Head and Neck Cancer Charity to provide more support groups across the Midlands and to pay a dedicated support group lead to set up and manage more groups throughout the whole of the UK.  

Danni Heath, director of Birmingham-founded Get A-Head, said: “Any cancer diagnosis is tough, but when it affects the head and neck, it can cause lots of difficulties. The disease itself and treatments given, can alter speech, hearing and key facial features and it can be very hard for people to deal with these symptoms.   

“It’s essential that support is on hand to help patients through the physical and emotional trauma. The support groups provided by Swallows are invaluable for patients and those who care for them, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to provide the money which will allow Swallows to expand the number of groups even further. 

“This type of collaboration is core to our activity at Get A-Head. In our 30th year of operation we are expanding our partnership working to reach as many people as possible living with head and neck cancer.” 

Chris Curtis, chief executive of Blackpool-based Swallows, said people with head and neck cancers could suffer a wide range of physical, social and emotional side effects but that attending support groups helped them realise they were not alone. 

He said: “We call the support groups “You’re Not Alone”, because that’s exactly what patients need to hear when their illness or treatment is getting too much for them. 

“Head and neck cancers can be particularly distressing because the effects are often very visible, including prominent scarring and problems with speech or eating and drinking. 

“Everyone is welcome at our support groups, where patients, caregivers, family and friends can meet others facing similar challenges, find out about practical things like adaptations and benefits, learn about complementary therapies to soften the side effects and just forget about their illness for a while with a friendly chat over a cup of tea. 

“We’re very grateful to Get A-Head for helping us to extend these groups so that more people across the Midlands can benefit from the sort of support that the NHS just doesn’t have the resources to provide.” 

Get A-Head provided two grants, each of £12,000. One was to help towards the cost of appointing a new support group lead to manage and drive groups throughout the UK and help grow the network of support groups with NHS hospitals.  

This post is to be part match-funded by the Hospital Saturday Fund and Fiona Watson was recently appointed to this role.  

Fiona, who for many years has supported the charity in a voluntary capacity, said: “I’m really looking forward to getting to know people across the Midlands and further afield who can benefit from the support we offer through Swallows. It is really important that people know they are not alone, and my role will focus on ensuring people up and down the country have access to support when they need it most.” 

The second grant will be used to set up new support groups in the Midlands and to  strengthen existing groups. It will help cover the costs of venue hire, refreshments, materials, awareness films, marketing and volunteer expenses. 

Danni added: “We know that Swallows have had great feedback from users at their existing groups, so I hope these grants will help many more patients and carers to realise they really are not alone.”