GUS Trust unites prostate groups

A charitable trust funded by GUS, the owner of retailer Argos, has forced 16 organisations campaigning on prostate cancer to take a unified approach.

The organisations will for the first time work together on a public affairs and media campaign this autumn.

The GUS Charitable Trust offered them £100,000 - on condition that they work together and stop splintering off in different directions.

"We must have had at least half a dozen approaches from charities, all within a relatively small sector,

said Vivienne Parry, administrator with the trust. "Rather than giving them £15,000 each, we thought they'd have far more impact working together with £100,000."

All the charities were given funds to meet for a day and thrash out their common goals, with the trust also paying for a trained facilitator. By the end of the day they had come up with the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action, which calls for government action on transparency, public awareness, patient care, resources and partnership. The charter will be launched this autumn and PR agency Harrison Cowley has been appointed to handle all media arrangements.

"Having a number of charities in one field approaching government makes it easier for government to play them off against one another and do nothing,

said Parry. "It dilutes the message. I know they all say they do slightly different things but from my perspective they also duplicate a lot of what they do."

The trust was concerned to achieve consensus among the diverse mix of charities, some of which compete with each other: the Prostate Cancer Charity; the Prostate Cancer Research Campaign UK; Orchid Cancer Appeal; the British Prostate Group, the Coalition against Prostate Cancer; the Pro Cancer Research Fund; PiCASSO (Prostate Cancer Support Organisation) and the Scottish Association of Prostate Cancer Support Groups.

Contentious issues such as prostate screening were left off the agenda and charities were directed to avoid negative criticism. "What was tremendous was the degree of co-operation and enthusiasm between the charities,

said Parry.

Often it was a lack of resources which prevented collaboration rather than real opposition, she said, especially for the smaller organisations in the area.

John Neate, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity and part of the co-ordinating steering group, said: "We can achieve much more together than we can apart - I'm very encouraged by the degree of co-operation between these charities and optimistic about the progress we can make."

The campaign coalition comprises all eight prostate cancer charities and other groups with an interest or involvement in the issue including Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Relief, Cancer BACUP, the Men's Health Forum, the British Association of Urological Surgeons, the British Urological Foundation and the British Association of Urological Nurses.

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