Deborah Alsina: Merging bowel cancer charities just makes sense

The chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK says that, by joining forces with Beating Bowel Cancer, the new combined charity will be able to scale up its ambition

Deborah Alsina
Deborah Alsina

I am delighted to announce that Beating Bowel Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK are merging so that together we can save more lives from the UK’s second-biggest cancer killer. 

During 2017, both boards of trustees and senior management teams have been through a thorough process of considering how we could do more to stop bowel cancer. Initial discussions explored how we could work more closely together, and this led to a realisation that a merger would make most sense.

Therefore, over the summer and early autumn we developed a joint proposition for the new charity and developed our plan for next steps and the legal model for the merger. The proposition was considered and approved at board meetings in October and led to a process of due diligence. 

Legal and financial due diligence is a thorough and demanding process that ensures both charities can have confidence in the proposed partnership. Nothing was raised in our due diligence processes, so at meetings in December both boards gave final agreement to the merger and legal agreements were exchanged shortly afterwards. New Year celebrations will have an extra special meaning for us this year, because we will be a fully merged charity on 1 January.

It has long been my view that a merger between the charities would be beneficial for people affected by bowel cancer. Too often in the third sector mergers are a last resort or unthinkable, sometimes sadly because of brand competition and egos. A bit of competition can be healthy and keep us all on our toes, but ultimately we work in the public interest so that must be what guides our decision-making. We have a responsibility to ensure that our organisations do not become the end in themselves, rather than a means to help, support and make a real difference for those we are there to serve, as outlined in our mission statements.

People – frequently those closely affected by bowel cancer – support Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer because they believe we can, and trust us to, make a real difference and work towards ending the tyranny of the disease. I hold that responsibility closely to me. What excites me most about this merger is the opportunity for fresh thinking and to scale up our strategic ambition.

Our pledge will be bold, stretching and inspiring. Within 10 years we will transform survival rates, from only one in every two people surviving bowel cancer over five years, to three out of four people surviving. There will be better treatment and care, including information and support for every patient, and screening will be optimal, leading to more cancers being detected early or prevented, thus leading to fewer emergency presentations. We will deliver this through an integrated programme of research, patient services, education and campaigns. Patients and their families will remain at the heart of all we do.

I feel incredibly privileged to lead the new charity and reassured that I will be working with the incredible staff of both organisations and supported, advised and challenged by a new board of trustees drawn from both charities, led by Patrick Figgis, PWC’s global leader for health and a trustee of Beating Bowel Cancer. 

I have real hope that by integrating our activities, teams, networks and support bases we will create a strong, confident charity that will drive positive change. The challenge of integration while continuing to deliver positive results is real, but we will plan hard, prioritise wisely, put in the hard work and breathe through the strains and stresses. Together, we are determined to be more tomorrow than we are today. This merger will help us to achieve our ambition so that in the future we really can stop bowel cancer.

Deborah Alsina is chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK and chief executive designate of Beating Bowel Cancer. Alsina won Charity Chief Executive of the Year at the Third Sector Awards 2017 

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