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

Conservative Conference 2017 Blog

by Carrie Hume

This week saw Brain Tumour Research attending as a charity observer the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. This follows our attendance at the Liberal Democrats’ conference, as well as the Labour Party conference. Defeating brain tumours is a cross party, cross society endeavour, which simply has to ‘dig in’ beyond the short termism inherent in political cycles and cast finding a cure as a joint effort for which we must all take responsibility. That is why we talk to all political parties.

One thing stood out at this conference, and that was again the power of individuals’ stories, and how they can rocket our agenda up the political scale. None more so than on this occasion, when the Prime Minister herself cited the case of 21-year old Alexander Paul who died this year from a brain tumour. His story has reached a very wide audience via Theresa May’s conference speech. She probably wasn’t aware that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, that they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. However what she does now know, is that the future of a young and aspiring political activist was robbed from the Conservative Party through this devastating disease. We can now work to improve her knowledge further!

Does Theresa May know that a Government commissioned Task and Finish Working Group are about to report on the state of brain tumour research to her own Ministers? It will continue to reveal that successive governments, have failed to invest in brain tumour research, creating decades of funding short falls, and which has damaged the hopes and dreams of all those affected. We have high hopes that it will deliver a significant step forward in the outlook for brain tumour patients and their families, and with it the vital investment needed. Perhaps given her interest, the Prime Minister herself could have a look and see if it stacks up, and help give justice to Alexander, those we have lost and all of those fighting to find a cure.

But what of the rest of the conference? The Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt gave an impressive speech, and clearly has raising standards in the NHS and improving safety clearly in his sights and seems to be delivering. Positive announcements relating to nurses and the working conditions of all those who work in the NHS can only be of benefit to brain tumour patients and their families. His obvious campaign to turn the NHS into more of a learning institution, may also foster benefits in terms of improving outcomes for brain tumour patients, as much is still to be learnt and improved in terms of diagnosis, treatment options and holistic care. He also indicated that he welcomed campaigns to improve our health service – is receptive to the fact that as citizens we have the right to challenge where standards and resources are not up to scratch.

In the forums and fringe events, including health forums, science and technology forums and a presentation from the NHS confederation, we took heart from the spirit of innovation that seemed to flow through all of these events. Innovation both in terms of application of new technologies that might help provide a cure for brain tumours, as well as new and innovative ways in which partnerships might draw together different medical practitioners to deliver both faster and more holistic care.

There was also much discussion of how our society is bathed in rich data about individuals, but that often this data is still held in disparate places. Any moves here could benefit brain tumour patients, whose data is vital in various ways to help find a cure.

These discussions were tempered however by more sombre discussions about the ‘tsunami of needs’ on the horizon, implicit in an ever-aging society and the extra crunch on resources that will come as a result, creating even more difficult choices about what aspects of medical care and research will gain investment. We need to keep up the fight for investment in brain tumour research, whatever comes. And, there also has been discussion both inside and out of the fringe events about how politicians are obviously distracted by the navigation and implications of securing an exit from the EU. This was evident in the fringe events themselves where fewer than usual politicians attended.

There were some signs of hope on the Brexit agenda though, as Minister after Minister talked of Britain being a beacon of hope to the world, fighting injustices and having the very best to offer in terms of technological innovation while fostering and nurturing a skilled workforce. It is this skilled workforce, who are emphatically welcomed by Jeremy Hunt regardless of where they are from, and the spirit of innovation that will be crucial to finding a cure for brain tumours. Britain could become that beacon of hope for brain tumour patients all over the world, if we commit to fully funding the ground breaking research still needed through places like our Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence.    

Next week sees the team attending both the Green Party Conference in Harrogate as well as the Scottish National Party conference.  

Check back here for more updates and if you have any questions or would like to get involved in our campaigning, please do not hesitate to contact us at