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Key takeaways from the Conservative manifesto launch 2024 

We’ve taken a close look at the pledges made in the Conservative manifesto and what they could mean for people affected by a brain tumour.

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Today the Conservatives published their manifesto ahead of the General Election 2024. Their manifesto was launched with call for “bold action”, but what could the pledges the Conservative Party have set out mean for people affected by a brain tumour? 

Improving diagnosis 

One of the core points highlighted in the Conservative manifesto is the pledge to build 50 more Community Diagnostic Centres. These centres help to expand the diagnosis capacity and include a range of services such as X-rays, CT, ultrasound and MRI scans. 

They’ve also pledged to build or modernise 250 GP surgeries and invest more in the community to increase the capacity of GPs. One strategy outlined in the Conservative manifesto is expanding the Pharmacy First scheme, which they estimate will free up 20 million GP appointments. 

The Conservatives have also stated they will fund technology to help read MRI scans more quickly and accurately, helping to speed up results for 130,000 patients annually. 

We know these pledges have the potential to benefit our community as 41% of respondents to our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys said they had to visit their GP three or more times before getting a diagnosis. For people not diagnosed via emergency presentation, being able to see a GP more quickly and for the NHS to have greater MRI capacity could help speed up the time to diagnosis from first experiencing symptoms. 

However, the Conservative manifesto does not address the need for GPs to receive more training on the common signs and symptoms of brain tumours. This awareness is vital for GPs to be able to suspect and therefore order further investigations to rule a brain tumour in or out.  

One further broad commitment is to double “digital and AI expertise in the civil service, to take advantage of the latest technologies to transform public services”. This is alongside a pledge to invest £3.4bn in new technology to transform the NHS. 

We know there are new technologies emerging that may assist with brain tumour diagnosis. However, the Conservative manifesto isn’t clear how new technology will be assessed, approved, regulated and implemented. This information is essential to effectively putting these pledges into action. 

What are we calling for in a National Brain Tumour Strategy?

We want to see the development of a new optimal diagnostic pathway ensuring everyone receives a fast and efficient diagnosis of a brain tumour.

Personalised and holistic care 

Currently, people affected by a brain tumour aren’t receiving the care and support they need. Our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys found that: 

  • 85% of respondents said they had unmet needs 
  • 57% of respondents said they needed extra support managing the symptoms and side-effects of their brain tumour 
  • 58% of respondents needed more help coping emotionally. 

Clearly something must change to make sure everybody in the brain tumour community receives the support they deserve. 

The Conservative manifesto contains a pledge to follow through on their plans to publish and implement a Major Conditions Strategy that makes sure everyone diagnosed with cancer receives the best possible care. 

They’ve also pledged to protect and promote patients’ right to choose the NHS service that’s right for them. They’ll do this by growing opportunities for all types of providers, including diagnostics, talking therapies and other mental health services. 

People diagnosed with a brain tumour having access to the right services is essential for their continued support and rehabilitation. However, we’ve previously outlined why we think a Major Conditions Strategy is the wrong way of delivering what the brain tumour community needs. This is especially true for people living with a low grade, non-cancerous brain tumour who may not be included in the Major Conditions Strategy. That’s why a National Brain Tumour Strategy is essential in delivering what the entire brain tumour community needs.  

It’s also worth mentioning that this additional care can only be delivered alongside the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan. We welcome this, particularly the increased capacity for Allied Health Professionals, including radiographers, and research nurses. However, greater attention is also needed for all aspects of patient pathways, including rehabilitation and palliative care. 

We also need to make sure the proposed increase in apprenticeship and shortening the curriculum for medical students still guarantees high-quality training is provided. 

What are we calling for in a National Brain Tumour Strategy?

We must ensure every brain tumour patient and their family has good access to wraparound support, meeting all of their collective needs.

New treatments 

We’ve seen very limited movement in new treatments being made available in recent years. The recent NICE approval of a combination therapy in certain paediatric tumours being the most significant for 20 years. 

The Conservatives have stated that they will support the UK’s world-leading life sciences sector and embrace nimble and agile regulation, supported by a well-equipped Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They’ve also said they will remove bureaucratic obstacles to the use of new medicines, such as the NHS Budget Impact Test and will align NHS England’s cost-effectiveness thresholds for new medicines indications with those used by NICE. As well as implementing a new medtech pathway so that it can be assessed and rolled out quickly. 

As more brain tumour treatments begin to emerge, it will be absolutely essential that the regulatory system and NHS infrastructure is able to support these treatments reaching patients as quickly and safely as possible.  

The promises laid out in the Conservative manifesto are a good first step, but they need to be done alongside lots of measures that will encourage a world class life sciences environment bringing together industry, charities, the NHS and regulators.  

What are we calling for in a National Brain Tumour Strategy?

A National Brain Tumour Strategy is needed to get patients the treatments they need. To get to this point we want to see: Every brain tumour patient being offered the chance to participate in clinical trials.

Investing in research 

Just 3.2% of the over £700 million invested in UK cancer research funding in 2019/20 was spent on brain tumours (this percent includes £6.6m of spending by The Brain Tumour Charity). Clearly, more needs to be done to increase this spend. 

Our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys have also revealed that just 12% of brain tumour patients participate in clinical trials. There are many complex and varied reasons for low numbers of clinical trials in the UK, and research is not just about clinical trials. 

The Conservative manifesto pledges to increase public spending on Research & Development (not just in health) from £20bn to £22bn. This has the potential to see investment for brain tumours in initiatives such as the National Cancer Vaccines Launchpad, where it is not currently included. There are no current plans to dedicate this funding for research into brain tumours, so we’ll have to work hard to ensure that some of this is utilised for the benefit of the brain tumour community. We’ll leverage another commitment in this as they’ve also pledged to support research into new treatments and secure more commercial clinical trials. 

What are we calling for in a National Brain Tumour Strategy?

A National Brain Tumour Strategy can help support advancements in research. For the UK to continue being a life science hub, we want to see research into brain tumours recognised as a clinical priority alongside a strategic plan for adequately resourcing and funding for discovery, translational and clinical research.

We won’t allow the brain tumour community to be forgotten!

Whoever is elected as the next Government, we can’t – and won’t – allow the brain tumour community to be forgotten. We’ll work with the new Government to highlight the unmet needs of people affected by brain tumours and to develop a National Brain Tumour Strategy that:

  • improves diagnosis times
  • provides wraparound care for all
  • advances kinder, more effective treatments
  • pushes for innovations in research.

Our handy General Election 2024 toolkit can help you engage prospective candidates during this election period to make sure better brain tumour care and research is a No Brainer for the next Government.