An Interview With Matthew Patey, CEO of The British Skin Foundation
Last Cyber Monday, we were delighted to support the British Skin Foundation with a £10,000 donation to the charity. We caught up with their CEO, Matthew Patey, to learn more about the British Skin Foundation...
How and when was The British Skin Foundation founded?
The Skin Disease Research Fund was relaunched in 1996 to become the British Skin Foundation (BSF) as we know it today – set up to fund research into all types of skin disease, including skin cancer.
Since the charity was founded, how much have you helped to fund skin disease research and awareness?
In the past 25 years the BSF has raised £17 million for British dermatological research, funding over 400 projects. Our research varies from common conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, through to potential killers like melanoma skin cancer and extremely rare conditions you might not have heard of like mycosis fungoides.
The research we fund is often key seed funding for new and innovative ideas that helps our researchers secure further funding down the road. With our help, upcoming and talented researchers can turn their ideas into larger, national projects that have the potential to help people across the country and even further afield in the future.
Whilst we are dedicated to raising money for research, we also aim to raise awareness of skin diseases in the wider community. We believe that education is key, which is why we’re committed to teaching people about the different skin conditions, helping to reduce stigma and promote understanding.
"We also aim to raise awareness of skin diseases in the wider community."
What is The British Skin Foundation’s main mission?
Our main mission is to raise as much money as possible for vital skin disease and skin cancer research. Raising awareness of skin disease is extremely important to us too, and we try to educate people where possible. We even have a skin disease directory on our website called Know Your Skin that provides information for the public, as well as a wealth of information on our main website.
What type of research has The British Skin Foundation funded recently?
Some of the research projects we have awarded recently has covered a wide range of conditions including hidradenitis suppurativa, psoriasis, both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, actinic keratosis, eczema, keloid scars, wound healing, CYLD cutaneous syndrome and mycosis fungoides to name a few!
How does The British Skin Foundation help to destigmatise skin diseases?
In our eyes, education is the key to destigmatising skin conditions. We work hard to provide information on our website and social media that helps to explain different skin conditions and encourage people that skin conditions are nothing to be ashamed of. We regularly feature guest blog posts on our website from the perspective of those with skin conditions, as well as consultant dermatologists and researchers to help give the public a better understanding, in addition to providing comment in the press on a regular basis.
This summer we worked with ITN Productions Industry News on a bespoke news-style programme ‘More than Skin Deep’ that looked to raise awareness and understanding of different types of skin disease, the mental and physical scars to patients and the importance of research into the advancements of new treatments and cures. Watch the full film here or tune into the main BSF news item which focused on three young people and their experiences living with a range of skin conditions.
"Skin conditions are nothing to be ashamed of."
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. What are the early signs of skin cancer and what should you do if you do detect something?
You should check your skin regularly for any changes. Common changes can include (but are not exclusive to) moles that grow, change shape, develop new colours, bleed, cause pain, crust, turn red around the edges or itch. The best thing to do if you’re worried about a change to your skin or have a new mark is to get it checked by your GP or a Consultant Dermatologist as soon as possible. Most skin cancers can be cured if caught early, but timing is key. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to get it checked. There’s more detailed information on our website here.
How much can suffering with a skin disease affect your mental health and has this changed over the years?
We know that over half of those with a skin disease feel judged by others according to a BSF survey earlier this year. A significant number say their skin condition affects their mental health, everyday life and often leaves them feeling embarrassed. One in five are unhappy with their skin and appearance in general, which is why we are committed to funding more research into all types of skin conditions. You can read more from the survey here. Nowadays, the psychological side of skin conditions is recognised as well as the physical side of skin disease, however, there is still a lot of work to do.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin report released last year has revealed that there is a worrying lack of mental health support for skin disease patients. The British Skin Foundation worked with other leading skin organisations as part of the Working Group that helped compile the report. You can read the full report here.
What type of education do we currently most need to bring awareness to when it comes to skin health?
One of the most important things to remember is that you shouldn’t suffer in silence. If you’re struggling with either the physical or psychological effects from your skin condition, then reach out to your GP (who may be able to refer you to a dermatologist on the NHS) or a Consultant Dermatologist for support and treatment.
How can we support The British Skin Foundation further?
The best way the public can help support the British Skin Foundation is by considering a regular or one-off donation to the charity to help support our work. Support from companies such as Face the Future is also extremely valuable to our work, whether spreading awareness of our charity and research, or generously donating, this all helps our mission to make suffering from skin conditions a thing of the past.
Get involved and learn more about our Charitable Monday plans and we've chosen The British Skin Foundation as our charity.