The Sussex Cancer Fund’s 40th Anniversary Interview With Founder Dr George Deutsch

The Sussex Cancer Fund's 40th Anniversay Interview With Founder Dr George Deutsch2021 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Sussex Cancer Fund so we thought we would catch-up with Founder Dr George Deutsch to find out why he set up the Sussex Cancer Fund and what have been the most significant changes in cancer care over the last 40 years. You can see some extracts from our meeting in the video below.

Why The Sussex Cancer Fund Was Set Up?

The Sussex Cancer Fund was founded in 1981 by Dr Deutch with the support of his colleagues Dr Shirley Murrell and Dr Neil Hodson. The charity was set up to work hand in hand with the NHS to create new and improved facilities and help maintain the best possible cancer care for the people of Sussex. In the early years of Dr Deutsch’s career in Brighton, the facilities were tired and in need of upgrading. There was also a lack of specialist equipment and NHS budgets were tight and they were unlikely to find the money to make the much-needed improvements. There were mainstream hospital charities but competition from many other equally deserved departments meant they were unlikely to get the funds they needed to make the changes. Dr Deutsch also realised that patients and their families wanted to say thanks for the treatment they had received and wanted donations to go directly to help the Cancer Centre rather than going into a general hospital-wide pot. Dr Deutsch’s appeal for funds was picked up by the local newspaper, the Argus which boosted their fundraising efforts. This lead to the founding of the Sussex Cancer Fund, which also meant greater control over the funds raised meaning that in addition to improved facilities and equipment they were able to support cancer research projects too.

How Has Cancer Treatment Changed?

It is hard to comprehend the advances there have been in cancer treatment over the last four decades and in fact, when Dr Deutsch first joined the Sussex Cancer Centre in the early 70s it was simply known as the Radiotherapy Department as Chemotherapy hadn’t become mainstream and was largely confined to just treating leukaemia and there was also a culture at the time to not use the word ‘Cancer’.

In addition to avoiding using the word in the department name, the word cancer was often even left out of conversations with patients. Dr Deutsch tells us of a tale where he spoke to a patient who was sadly mainly now receiving palliative care. The patient even at this late stage had not been told he had cancer, this seems an absurd notion these days, but cancer was often viewed as a death sentence and was thought best not to worry the patient. Dr Deutsch gently and simply told the patient the truth for which the patient was extremely grateful but consequently later got the young Dr Deutsch into trouble with the patient’s very senior Surgeon.

Another considerable change that Dr Deutsch witnessed over his long career was how patients were involved in creating treatment plans. It was usual for the Doctors to develop the treatment plan and then present it to the patient as ‘this is what we are going to do’. With the increase in treatment options available and a desire to move the patient to the centre of the treatment, patients are now consulted and all the options are presented so that a plan can be compiled in a more collaborative and inclusive way and giving the patient much more control and a better understanding of their treatment. This more specialist and collaborative approach, together with sadly the increase in cancer patients mean more staff are needed to administer care and has lead the Sussex Cancer Centre to grow from just the two consultants running the Centre at the beginning of George’s career to the 30 or so Consultants and a countless number of other specialist staff providing care today.


Memories & Achievements

A walking tour of the Sussex Cancer Centre is always a humbling experience as much of it has been built or completely refurbished by the Sussex Cancer Fund but there are some stand-out memories for George that are worthy of note in a look back of 40 years of the charity.

The Centre itself was completely reconfigured resulting in a brand new entrance and waiting areas. But a brand new entrance in a brand new place meant that access was now not possible and actually lead to the Sussex Cancer Fund constructing a brand new piece of road, which is still in use today outside the Centre.

In 1994 the Centre was lucky enough to receive a royal visit from the Duchess of Gloucester, while the visit was very much welcome it caused quite a stir and is still talked about by staff that were present at the time. After Dr Deutsch retired from practising medicine he stayed on as Chairman of the Sussex Cancer Fund for many years. George stayed in a formal role at the charity until his project to build a unique facility for cancer patients had come to fruition. His project was the building of what we now know as the Macmillan Horizon Centre. Opened in November 2016 the Horizon Centre grew to be a joint project between the Sussex Cancer Fund,  Macmillan Cancer Support and BSUH NHS Trust.

There have been many kind and generous fundraisers and donations over the years but George told us a story that reflects the passion and dedication shown by our supporters. He recalled a gentleman who continued to run half marathons raising money for the Sussex Cancer Fund well into his 70s, this would have been a great achievement in itself but the gentlemen was also one of George’s patients. Despite being in great pain with bone cancer this courageous man continued to run for the charity that had helped him.

Thank you to Dr George Deutsch for taking the time to talk to us but more importantly for starting the charity that has gone on to help many thousands of cancer patients throughout Sussex.



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