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

Weekly Public Affairs Roundup

by Hugh Adams

As the COVID-19 crisis continues and pressures facing charities like ourselves continue to develop, there was a voice of support from Parliament. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee this week released a report which concluded that the Government is currently not doing enough to support charities affected by COVID-19. The report warned that ‘untold damage’ will be done as a result of Government funding being difficult to access, if indeed it was accessible at all.

Brain Tumour Research receives no funding from Government - we are wholly dependent on our supporters. Our fight for survival during this time isn’t driven by a right to exist, but rather a belief that patients with brain tumours deserve the life-saving research we fund at Research Centres of Excellence at Imperial College and Queen Mary University in London and at the University of Plymouth.

We were pleased that the report highlighted the challenges the sector is facing; slow moving of funds, too many restrictions in access and a lack of transparency around the funding process. Let us be clear though we are calling on the Government to not only offer a more substantial package for the charity sector, but also to extend eligibility of access to research charities like us.

COVID-19 is an unexpected crisis and the work of many frontline charities in responding to the immediate challenge is amazing. Our argument is a simple one – brain tumours haven’t stopped because of COVID-19, research into them can’t afford to stop either.

Two further pieces of information from Westminster this week; the Health Select Committee held an oral session on Friday as part of an inquiry into delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond. With regards to oncology the key focus was on diagnostics and treatments – we will update on this in next week’s blog.

Also, alongside the AMRC, we helped Philippa Whitford MP with a letter making the case for research funding charities to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Philippa Whitford is a Scottish National Party politician and a breast surgeon. She is the SNP Health spokesperson in the House of Commons. We provided a briefing to Philippa’s office ahead of this letter and were pleased to see her “calling on the UK Government to work in partnership with medical research charities to ensure the viability of their organisations and the vital work they do.”

The weekly teleconference call for cancer charities hosted by NHS England covered familiar material – the 50% drop in referrals, the roll-out of Covid free cancer hubs and the emergency approval of new drugs – this could have implications for our community because the route to new drugs can appear incredibly tortuous and so a potential new precedent could be welcome. Clinical trials were mentioned too and there is no doubt that capabilities are currently squeezed by the Covid inspired competition for both workforce and infrastructure. Hopefully this will be a time limited problem as clinical trials are essential part of the pathway as we translate the scientific research we fund from the scientist’s bench to the patient’s bedside.

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