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

Britain Against Cancer Conference 2018

by Erika Murigi

Ensuring the voice of brain tumour patients and their families is heard at a government level is such an important part of what we do and the annual Britain Against Cancer conference offers us a valuable opportunity to network with key decision makers about the importance of our work.

So, on Tuesday 4th December our Chief Executive, Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chair of our Trustees, Wendy Fulcher, and members of our Public Affairs and PR team, headed to Westminster to spend the day hearing about the latest developments in cancer policy and discussing our work with other delegates.

Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC), this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, the event brought together MPs, representatives from the NHS, policy experts, charities, drug companies, patients, and carers to assess and discuss future priorities for improving cancer care and support.

Among those addressing the conference were Nic Dakin MP, Chair of the APPGC, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, and Cally Palmer CBE, National Cancer Director, NHS England, all discussing their vision for ensuring cancer patients and their families get the best treatment and support.

Talks focused on key cancer policy issues including building a sustainable workforce, improving early diagnosis and survival rates and how the use of NHS data can help drive change for people with cancer.

Patient experience and living well with and beyond a cancer diagnosis also featured prominently, particularly from patient representative speakers who stressed the importance of the need for psychological support. It was also encouraging to hear a much more committed stance to including rare and less common cancers in policy initiatives, ensuring they are “not left behind”.

A Question Time session, chaired by Nick Robinson, presenter of the BBC Today programme, who often drew upon his own experience of having had lung cancer to facilitate discussion, really highlighted the impact of a diagnosis on people’s lives and what needs to be done to improve care and support for patients and their families.

In the final keynote speech of the day, Cally Palmer confirmed that the direction for cancer care in the NHS Long Term Plan, due to be published later this month, will build on previous cancer strategies.

At our stand in the exhibition area, there was a great deal of interest in our recent report Exposing the financial impact of a brain tumour diagnosis and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT) report Brain Tumours – a cost too much to bear? which we produced as Secretariat for the Group. 

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Nic Dakin MP and Steve Brine MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Health and Social Care all stopped by and were able to discuss the findings of both reports as well as the importance of our work in helping to find a cure for brain tumours.

All in all, it was a very useful and informative day that focused on a number of key issues. We would, however, have liked to have heard more mention of the importance of research and innovation and to have heard how policymakers will incorporate the development of, and improved access to, treatments in incoming and future cancer strategies.

As such, we look forward to following up with the MPs and decision makers who we met on the day to discuss in more detail how we can take forward the recommendations contained in the recent Brain Tumour Research and APPGBT reports.

Sign up to become a Brain Tumour Research Activist and stay up-to-date with our campaigning work. 

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