A group of Labour MPs including Keir Starmer and Jonathan Ashworth have joined with other politicians, campaigners and public health experts to back the launch of the Tessa Jowell Foundation.
The newly established organisation has been launched today on the anniversary of the day the late Labour peer announced that she had a brain tumour, and on what would have been her 73rd birthday.
Also backing the foundation are Labour’s Lisa Nandy, Helen Hayes and Sarah Jones, Tory MPs Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as well as Cancer Research UK Cambridge centre director Professor Richard Gilbertson.
The foundation will be led by Jowell’s daughter Jess Mills with support from other members of the former south London MP’s family, and will focus on delivering her “public health legacies”.
Commenting on the launch and Jowell’s legacy, Starmer said: “Tessa was an inspiration. A true public servant, she strived throughout her life to make this country a better place for all.
“She is sorely missed but lives on in the memories she gave us and – from Sure Start to the Olympics and securing life-changing cancer research funding – her incredible legacy.”
Jowell was the first ever UK minister for public health and used the platform to develop and implement the Labour government’s flagship Sure Start policy, designed to help give disadvantaged children the best possible start in life.
More than 3,000 Sure Start centres were opened across the country during Labour’s 13 years in power, but many were subsequently closed when the coalition government took office in 2010.
The Labour leader added: “It was a personal privilege to work with Tessa and call her my friend. It is fitting that her vision and immense dedication will live on in the Tessa Jowell Foundation.
“Her final campaign to transform brain cancer treatment inspired us all and I wholeheartedly support the foundation in continuing to drive this crucial work, giving patients the hope that Tessa personified.”
Jowell was diagnosed with cancer in May 2017 and dedicated the remainder of her life to campaigning for change to brain tumour treatment funding and research. She passed away at the age of 70 a year later.
Following a final parliamentary speech from Jowell in 2018, the government committed to supporting the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission that brings together experts in research, science, trials, technology and patient charities.
The foundation has stated that its starting focus will be to “secure the delivery of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission” including the launch of the accreditation of ten Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence throughout the NHS in 2021.
The body will take a leadership role in the mission, which is mainly made up of those affected by the illness, as well as leading clinicians, forming its steering committee and four working groups. It focuses on six key areas:
- “Patient-led advocacy to support the development of data sharing protocols and a registry;
- “Improved access to experimental medicines;
- “Collaboration with pharma in expediting drug repurposing and trial development;
- “Development of a clear timeline to reduce diagnosis;
- “Implementation of new models of patient care, such as the Cambridge model and appropriate measurement of patient outcomes/satisfaction; and
- “National roll out of the ‘pink drink’ and other proven tools.”
Professor Gilbertson explained that the foundation will give the mission a “more robust and stable level of support so that we can deliver our transformational national strategy for brain cancer treatment and care throughout the NHS”.
Ashworth described Jowell as an “inspiration”, adding: “We all miss her desperately and remain dedicated to truly honouring her memory by doing all we can to ensure the very best modern treatment possible for those with brain cancer.”
Other Labour MPs added their tributes to the former minister. Nandy said Jowell was “single minded in her belief that people should be able to live richer, larger lives full of opportunity, whatever their circumstances”.
Hayes, who replaced Jowell as the Dulwich and West Norwood MP, said the foundation and the Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence will “deliver the step-change that Tessa was so passionate to see, and which is so urgently needed”.
Health Secretary Hancock said Jowell’s “impact on others and the legacy she left was achieved always with kindness, compassion and with great integrity”. He added that her achievements “will be with us for a long time to come”.
Jowell was first elected as an MP in 1992 and became the minister for public health in 1997. She was appointed as the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary in 2001 before serving as the Olympics minister between 2005 and 2010.
She died aged 70 in May 2018 after being diagnosed with brain cancer the previous year. Five months before her death, she delivered a moving speech in the House of Lords that received a rare and emotional standing ovation.