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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

General Election 2017: What do the Party manifestos say that might help brain tumour research?

General Election 2017: What do the Party manifestos say that might help brain tumour research?
by Greg Judge

What happens in politics matters to all our pockets, and often to the things we hold dear and fight for in the charity sector. A general election can be a time of optimism, as well as a time of despair and concern about the future – what will matter to the new Government and who is important to them in society? Will a new Government honour promises of the past and successes of the present, or quickly move to please the few? What are the signs that any new Government will really take note of the historic underfunding of brain tumour research and prioritise it moving forward? 

They have after all received such a strong message over the past year from us, and from numerous others including you (over 120,000 of you) and their own Petitions Committee. Our campaign led to the establishment of the Government’s Task and Finish Working Group, of which Brain Tumour Research is a member and together we will be submitting a report to Ministers this summer.

It’s important we pay attention to any pledges that parties put forward, since once in Government a party promise can become a hollow one, it is our duty to refer back to these pledges since it is on the basis of these promises that we ultimately make our candidate choices. 

It would be wonderful if a party manifesto stated something specifically about brain tumour research! This may happen one day, but for the moment we need to look carefully at the pledges to work out how they might have outcomes that are relevant to any of the issues facing brain tumour patients and the UK research environment. As ever the NHS is high on the public agenda, polls say higher than at any point for over a decade. Correspondingly, all of the parties have strong commitments relating to the NHS. But can we tease apart what this might actually mean to us and our supporters? Here we give a bit of an overview. 

We’ve reviewed these documents to understand how each political party’s policies can support our vision to find a cure for brain tumours.  The pledges are published in the form of manifesto books which other parties, the media, charities and voters specifically use to hold the Government of the day to their word.

Covers of General Election Manifestos 2017
We have set their key pledges against the areas of brain tumour research needing the most impact and investment as we understand it:

1. Increasing research funding

What do we want?

Brain Tumour Research continues to fight for an increase in the national spend on brain tumour research to £30 – 35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia. Government doesn’t currently contribute anywhere near this. Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to fighting brain tumours. We would hope for change that also took into account the fact that brain tumours continue to kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. 

What do the different parties say? 


Within the Conservative manifesto, they commit to “significantly increase” the funding of UK-led medical research into the biggest threats to global health and support research into the diagnosis and treatment of rare cancers. 

The Labour Party have specified in their manifesto that they want to create “an innovation nation” that will meet the OECD (an official United Nations economic observer) target of 3 per cent of GDP to be spent on research and development by 2030. They have also stated that they will commit extra research investment to support business and industry, such as the UK’s thriving life sciences sector.

The Liberal Democrats have stated that medical research is vital for developing new and better treatments for patients. They have committed to protecting the Government’s science budget, including the recent £2 billion increase, by continuing to raise it at least in line with inflation.

Aiding innovation also features in the Green Party’s manifesto as they have pledged to support start-ups and creative enterprises through community credit and green investment. 

The SNP has pledged to seek clarification from the UK government on long-term funding arrangements after the UK leaves the EU to ensure that current funding levels for research are maintained. The party’s manifesto makes special mention of the SNP’s intention to work with Scottish Universities to seek clarity on what funding will replaced the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

2. Building research capacity

What do we want?


Developing a critical mass of trained neuro-oncology research staff who focus entirely on brain tumour research is essential to finding a cure. Growth of research leadership and the next-generation of scientists are key to building our research capacity. It is estimated that for every £1 we invest in medical research, we see a 17 per cent annual return to the UK economy, indefinitely.

What do the different parties say?

Supporting major investment in infrastructure, skills and research and development features prominently in the Conservative’s manifesto. As part of the Government proposed industrial strategy, they would like to make the UK one of the most innovative countries in the world.

The Labour Party have stated they will invest £250 billion over the next ten years into infrastructure. This commitment is additional to their pledge of investing £30 billion into the NHS over the next Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats have said they will campaign against any reduction in investment in UK universities and for their right to apply for EU funds on equal terms. They guarantee to underwrite funding for British partners in EU-funded research projects, such as Horizon 2020.

The Green Party have stated that they will provide an “immediate cash injection” into the NHS, and close the spending gap based on patient demand. They will also roll back outsourcing to private NHS providers, a policy which is designed to keep returns within the NHS, to be reinvested into care, treatments and research.

UKIP have pledged in their manifesto to provide the NHS in England with an additional £9 billion a year by 2020/21. This funding will go towards supporting clinical services, as well as some medical research.

Promises to spend £2billion more on NHS Scotland are a key plank of the SNP’s manifesto. The party also supports the continuation of programmes like ERASMUS+, which allows students to seamlessly travel to Europe for study. The SNP is also calling for a Scottish representative to be a standing member of the UK Research and Innovation Board, which decides on allocation of UK research funding to UK universities.

 


3. Improving access to new cancer treatments and drugs

What do we want?

Development of new brain tumour drugs that are both effective and affordable is a key priority for patients. Repurposing of existing cancer drugs and overcoming the Blood Brain Barrier are important avenues of research. Currently, just two cancer drugs are administered as standard treatment; temozolomide, and bevacizumab, a brain tumour drug which is not applicable to all patients.

What do the different parties say?

The Conservatives say they will implement the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review which aims to speed up access to innovative drugs. They will also continue with expanding screening and a major radiotherapy equipment upgrade.

The Labour Party have pledged to ensure access to all new medicines and treatments, working with pharmaceutical companies on ‘value-for-money’ deals. This will be supported by their commitment to deliver the NHS Cancer Strategy in full by 2020.

The Liberal Democrats say they will support the principle that all medical trials using public facilities or resources should comply with the Open Trials standards, this will help with transparency of medical research. Their flagship health policy is to ‘put a penny in the pound’ on Income Tax to give the NHS and social care services the cash injection it needs to afford the best care and treatments available.

UKIP have proposed a National Dementia Plan to recommend research and treatment priorities, and co-ordinate expertise. A similar plan is much needed for tackling the historical underfunding in brain tumour research.

The SNP proposes that the UK should remain members of the European Medicine Agency, to facilitate access to new medicines, clinical trials and research data. The SNP also desires that responsibility for medicine and medical product regulation be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Make your voice heard

Whoever is elected into Government after 8th June, it is up to our community and every voter to make sure Ministers and MPs do their bit to fund the fight against this devastating disease.

You can email your candidates and ask them to support the Brain Tumour Pledge.

What you can do is tell them your story about why this issue matters to you in your own words, and ask them to simply pledge to:

 

  • Champion and advance the cause of brain tumour patients and their families in Parliament.
  • Fight for an increase in the national spend on brain tumour research to £30 – 35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia.

Contacting your candidates is very easy.

  1. Go to www.whocanivotefor.co.uk and type in your postcode to find out who your candidates are.

  2. Choose a candidate to contact.

  3. Use the template we have prepared and add their details.

  4. Include your name and your postcode, so they know you live in their constituency.

  5. Please forward any replies to campaigning@braintumourresearch.org so that we can follow up with them on your behalf. 

If you need any help or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our team at campaigning@braintumourresearch.org.

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