Markham rings changes at CRUK

Cancer Research UK's new chief executive Alex Markham has signalled his future vision for the charity by making a series of sweeping changes that will strengthen the charity's clinical work and reduce the current emphasis on PR and communications.

The charity's communications directorate, previously headed by Susan Osborne, has been incorporated into a new clinical, corporate and external affairs division, under Professor Robert Souhami, previously the charity's director of clinical research, development and training.

As executive director of communications, Osborne has been a central figure in establishing CRUK's reputation among supporters and the press. She is currently working in the new post of director of press and media relations, and is said to be considering her future at the charity.

Although he has no direct experience of handling a charity's external communications, Souhami said that he had years of experience communicating research results to patient groups and of explaining policy to scientists.

The moves come just weeks after Markham told Third Sector (24 September) that he had no plans to stamp his authority on the UK's biggest cancer charity, saying he would be "evolutionary, not revolutionary".

Previously the director of the Molecular Medicines Unit at Leeds University, Markham joined CRUK in September to replace Paul Nurse, who resigned after only five months in post as chief executive. His resignation was the second high-profile executive departure in the space of a year after joint director Gordon McVie left abruptly in July 2002.

Other new posts on the charity's executive include executive director of organisational development and executive director of finance. Peter Vicary-Smith, previously executive director of fundraising and marketing, will become commercial director.

CRUK declined to comment on the changes to the executive board. But James Davidson, the charity's ex-executive director of corporate integration, who retired at the end of October, said that the decisions would shock staff.

"The new CEO has clearly got new ideas about where the charity should be going," he said.

The merger of Imperial Cancer Research and Cancer Research Campaign in 2001 was widely regarded as a success, and has created the UK's first 'supercharity' with an income of £270m.

In February this year, the charity announced that it had seen a 12 per cent rise in income in its first interim results since the merger. The hike was £10m ahead of projections. At the time, Osborne said that the boost in income reflected the success of her department's PR and awareness campaigns in rallying the public to the cause.

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