Earlier this week, we saw the first of the party leaders deliver their Conference speech. Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, used some of his time on stage to talk about what their Ten Year Cancer Plan would look like. So, let’s take a deeper dive into some of the Liberal Democrat conference pledges.
A new Cancer Survival Research Act
In a bold and exciting move, the Liberal Democrats committed to introducing new legislation that would require the Government to coordinate and ensure funding for research into the less survivable cancers. And they specifically mentioned brain cancer as one of the cancers they’ll focus on.
This new legislation will be based on legislation already in place in the USA called the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act. This Act required the National Cancer Institute to develop scientific frameworks for addressing cancers with survival rates of less than 50%.
This is an incredible commitment that the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, of which we are a founding member, have been calling for. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons we came together to form the coalition in the first place. To see it take pride of place in a leader’s speech, and likely an indicator to what will be in the party’s manifesto, is a huge achievement and testament to the hard work and campaigning of all six of the member charities.
Improving support for patients and their families
Another pledge Ed Davey made was to recruit more cancer nurses to give every patient a dedicated specialist to support them throughout. This is something we know is incredibly important for our community but is something that is too often not available to them.
Over four in ten respondents to our Improving Brain Tumour Care Surveys did not have good access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or a key worker and 84% of respondents didn’t have all the support they needed in one or more areas. This is why we have repeatedly called for improvements to be made to ensure everyone who is diagnosed with a brain tumour received a dedicated CNS or key worker.
We’re pleased to see this commitment in Ed Davey’s speech, but know it needs to come, not just with significant investment, but very good, strategic workforce planning for the future.
Halve the time for new treatments to reach patients
Currently, it takes an average of 11 months for a new medicine or medical technology to be approved and made available for patients in England. In other countries, this is much quicker – for instance in Germany the average is just four months.
The Liberal Democrats want to change that!
By investing in the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Authority (MHRA) and ensuring they have enough resource, they hope to improve the time taken in England. However, we know this is not the only issue and, while this will help, it will not be solved completely by this.
We are seeing more and more treatments entering pipelines for brain tumour patients and it’s essential that we ensure the systems are fit for purpose to give patients innovative new treatments as quickly and safely as possible. We are already working with stakeholders on this issue.
An exciting time?
Ed Davey’s speech and the subsequent Liberal Democrat conference pledges were promising. Ed Davey spoke movingly from his own tragic experience of losing both parents to cancer by the time he was a teenager. He knows on a deep level what it’s like to face a cancer diagnosis and his passion is evident. These pledges could form the basis of a really exciting plan for cancer that would genuinely help people diagnosed with a brain tumour.
We know it’ll take significant time, money and resource, but for now we remain cautiously optimistic about what the Liberal Democrats have set out.
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