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How This North East Charity Supports Patients Affected by Asbestos-Related Diseases

North East Charity
January 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

North East charity READLEY supports anyone affected by an asbestos-related disease

Team members Samantha Cox and Joanne Murray tell us more about their vital work in the region.

READLEY is a support group offering a holistic approach to the care and wellbeing of patients, their family and friends affected by any asbestos-related disease. ‘The majority of our patients have been diagnosed with the incurable cancer, mesothelioma,’ they say. ‘At our groups we offer an opportunity for people to come together and meet. Samantha’s background as a psychotherapist allows her to also offer a comprehensive counselling service to our patients and their families throughout their mesothelioma journey. At every group we have a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), from the national charity Mesothelioma UK and Sarah Thomas, Mesothelioma UK's senior benefits advisor as well as our expert panel of specialist asbestos litigation lawyers.’

Samantha formed the support group with the help of Sharon Beaumont in October 2015 after losing her dad to mesothelioma earlier that year. In 2016 Joanne joined the support group with her dad having been diagnosed with the same cancer in the summer of 2015. READLEY was registered as a charity in December 2019 and has continued to grow and develop ever since. Samantha, Joanne, Sharon and Adele Fasa make up the team at READLEY. Samantha and Joanne are responsible for the day to day running of the support groups and most of the direct patient contacts, whilst Sharon and Adele are responsible for all financial and administration matters and, as they say ‘keep the READLEY wheels turning’.

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Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with few treatment options. ‘Most people diagnosed with this cancer have a very poor, short prognosis,’ Samantha and Joanne explain. ‘They develop mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos, for some many decades previously. Our region is disproportionately affected by this cancer due to our industrial, chemical and shipbuilding heritage, so there is a need in our region for a comprehensive, cohesive and holistic support service for anyone diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.’

The charity’s support now covers the Darlington, Durham, Teesside, Wearside, Newcastle and Northumberland areas, going west to the Cumbrian border. ‘At READLEY our patients can quickly access expert advice from our clinical nurse specialists, benefit advisor and legal panel and can gain advice and knowledge around the latest treatments and clinical trials,’ they say. ‘We look after a patient's physical and psychological wellbeing, throughout their mesothelioma journey. Our holistic approach looks after the whole person and their family.’

Each month READLEY offer two face-to-face support groups, held in Darlington and Seaburn hotels, and one virtual meeting via Zoom for patients unable to access a physical group. ‘Many patients are unable to travel to our hotel locations due to their illness or undergoing trials and treatments which make them too poorly,’ they add. ‘We recognise there is a need for these people too, therefore we continue to host a virtual monthly meeting. At every group we have patients and their families and friends who can come together and meet and form supportive friendships. The power of meeting other people in the same situation as oneself is such a comfort to our patients and their families. We recognise that for some individuals, a support group in whatever form is just not for them, and therefore, we can support their spouses or families independently or themselves over the phone or for specific advice only.’

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READLEY is a combination of two names: Paul Readhead (Samantha’s dad) and Robin Smedley (Joanne’s dad). ‘The READLEY starfish logo is a symbol of the tale of the boy, walking along the seashore helping to throw the washed up starfish back into the sea, in order to help them survive,’ they say. ‘A passer by told the boy he was wasting his time, there were just too many to save, but the boy picked up another one and threw that one back into the sea and replied “I made a difference to that one” – that’s where our logo comes from; we're making a difference to that one.’

Their aim is to make sure anyone diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease in our region is aware of the charity and the services they offer. ‘We want to continue to grow and develop the charity through raising awareness and continuing fundraising,’ they say. ‘We currently part fund one CNS post out of the three Mesothelioma UK nurses we have in our region and also part fund Sarah Thomas' role within the charity Mesothelioma UK. We would wish in the future to increase our funding for these individuals to be able to further grow and develop the nursing and benefit service from the charity within our region. We wish for the numbers of patients being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, especially in our region, to fall and for treatments to advance and increase in their effectiveness.’

Find out more about READLEY at

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