Spotlight on a Charity
Marie Curie is a registered charitable organisation in the United Kingdom which provides care and support to people with terminal illnesses and their families. It was established in 1948, the same year as the National Health Service.
The Marie Curie Hospital was opened in 1930 by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and specialised in the "radiological treatment of women suffering from cancer and allied diseases". It was staffed by medical women and cared for 700 patients a year in 39 beds.
The 10 Marie Curie Homes they founded in the 1950s and early 1960s were all housed in converted buildings – including a prep school, a railwaymen's convalescent home, a police orphanage and several mansions. They were far from ideal for caring for seriously ill cancer patients. In the 1960s, they decided that all future Marie Curie Homes would be purpose-designed and built. The first was opened in Belfast in 1965. A similar, larger building followed in Fairmile, Edinburgh, in 1966.
They also began to replace existing homes with purpose-built ones, starting with Edenhall (in Hampstead) and Strathclyde House (Glasgow) in 1967. The first Marie Curie Home, the Hill of Tarvit – which was no longer viable because of its remote location – was closed in 1977.
Throughout this stage in their development, the Marie Curie Homes relied primarily on local GPs for clinical cover.
Their day and night nursing service continued to grow throughout the 1960s. By 1974, when responsibility for community care in England and Wales passed to the NHS, Marie Curie Nurses were caring for 3,664 people across 200 local authorities.
At this point, the charity negotiated a 50:50 sharing of costs for the service in England and Wales with the NHS at local level taking responsibility for deployment of nurses. Similar arrangements were negotiated later in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
We opened our own research facility at the Marie Curie Home in Caterham in 1962. Early work focused on controlling the growth and proliferation of hormone-dependent tumours.
In 1967, they opened bigger laboratories at a converted former convalescent home in Limpsfield Chart, Oxted, and extended the scope of their cancer research.
The Marie Curie Memorial Foundation was a pioneer of direct-mail fundraising – writing to potential donors and asking them for support. Appeals were backed by popular celebrities including Wilfred Pickles , Dame Flora Robson and Henry Cooper .
They launched their first national campaign – 'Supporting the choice to die at home' – in 2004. This helped put end of life care on the political agenda – and now all major parties in all four nations are committed to increasing people's choice over their place of death.
They continue to campaign for terminally ill people to be able to die in their place of choice.
Equality of access
During this period, they committed to provide care to all people with a terminal illness, regardless of their diagnosis, solely on the basis of need.
Marie Curie pioneered new ways of providing care for terminally ill people, helping them to stay at home until the end of their lives.
Working closely with the NHS, local independent hospices and other charities, they developed services designed around people's needs. Research showed that they successfully helped more terminally ill people to remain in their homes.
The Marie Curie Nursing Service continued to grow – reaching increasing numbers of people at the end of their lives. A major study by the Nuffield Trust provided strong evidence that the Marie Curie Nursing Service reduces the need for emergency hospitalisation, allows more people to die at home and cuts hospital costs.
Marie Curie Hospices continued to develop their care, expanding the services they offered in local communities, especially day services, to become regional centres of excellence in care.
They replaced their hospices in Glasgow and Solihull with modern buildings designed around the needs of patients and families.
They also introduced the Marie Curie Helper service – in which trained volunteers help local people with a terminal illness.
They now focus their research efforts on finding better ways of caring for terminally ill people and their families (palliative care research).
In recent years, they have significantly increased their funding in this area, setting up new research teams at UCL (London), Liverpool University and Cardiff University. They also established a major grants programme, awarding around £1 million every year to fund palliative care research projects, on a competitive basis. They are now one of the UK's leading funders of palliative care research.
Their strategic plan for 2014-19 sets out their response to the challenges faced by people living with a terminal illness today. They plan to offer care and support to more people, reach them sooner after their diagnosis and help them in different ways.