Leukaemia UK's early fundraising took place from the upstairs of a pub in Bromley. Landlord and Leukaemia UK founder, Derek Mitchell (featured in the photo above with his wife Isobel) initially raised money locally but as the need for more resources for King’s College Hospital in London grew, the charity developed a national fundraising strategy.

The results were so successful that in 1988 Leukaemia UK, which was originally known as the Elimination of Leukaemia Fund,  made its first significant grant to King’s, allowing it to establish the Isobel Mitchell DNA laboratory.

But the effects of the charity’s work at King’s went far beyond simply offering financial support. Before Leukaemia UK's involvement, leukaemia patients at King’s were treated in a general cancer ward with no specific facilities for blood cancer patients. In fact, its haematology department was on the brink of closure.

And by 1992, the lack of dedicated facilities at King’s meant bone marrow transplants were so limited that the hospital was considering removing all leukaemia beds. Thanks to Derek’s lobbying and a grant of £250,000 from Leukaemia UK, the Derek Mitchell Transplant Unit was established - a five bedded ward with nursing support in what is now the Ruskin Wing.  This paved the way for the superb department which exists today which is also named after Derek Mitchell.

Derek could see for himself that we were unable to deliver the quality of service that we wanted to offer because we just didn’t have the resources or the capacity. In many ways, he was a visionary. He realised that in order to improve the haematology care at King’s, Leukaemia UK not only had to improve patient care, but that the charity needed to put funds into basic science and research, because without that we would never see change.

 

Today we have a research facility, and two wards named after the charity. A lot of charities do not get that tangible recognition. People need to recognise that that is the respect that we have for the work that Leukaemia UK has done over the past 40 years.

Tony Pagliuca, Professor of Transplant Haematology, King's College Hospital

As well as supporting significant projects at King’s, Leukaemia UK also began to offer grants to young people affected by blood cancer through the Institute of Child Health/Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was also able to support valuable research in hospitals in other areas of the UK and in 1997 introduced a Travel and Training Fellowship to allow clinicians, nurses, clinical researchers and related health professionals to attend conferences, workshops and visit centres of excellence and expertise.

By 2008, to reflect the change in emphasis towards putting the person affected by blood cancer at the centre of its work, the charity awarded grants to help establish two new Clinical Nurse Specialist posts, one at King’s and one at Guy’s Hospital, London.

Since then, Leukaemia UK has gone on to fund the first ever counsellor to offer dedicated support to haematology patients and continues to support a wide range of counselling services, including specialist help for teenagers and young people affected by blood cancer.

Forty years on, Leukaemia UK continues to work towards Derek's vision of a blood cancer cure and for better, kinder treatments for those living with the disease. We are sure he would be very proud of the huge advances Leukaemia UK has helped to achieve in blood cancer care.