Over 100,000 people signed the petition calling on Government to ring fence research funding for child cancers this year. This triggered a debate in Parliament which, as the Chair of the Brain Tumour Parliamentary Group, I was honoured to contribute to. If you are told your child has DIPG (brain tumour) for example you will soon discover your child has a very short time left. Sadly, families here in West Cornwall know this only too well. The Brain Tumour Group recently met with British-based company Midatech, carrying out clinical trials in the US and showing early signs of extended life expectancy in children with DIPG. The technique used delivers the drug directly to the brain via a catheter. I pressed the Health Minister in the debate to investigate why Midatech was having to run its clinical trials in the USA. In our work at the Brain Tumour APPG we have repeatedly been told that there is a lack of research and clinical trials in the area of brain cancer. With the right drive and commitment from Government we can hope to increase the numbers of researchers and scientists and we can then increase the likelihood of effective treatment to the most aggressive of cancers. You can read more about this on the Brain Tumour Research Website.
The remarkable development of the coronavirus vaccine is proof in itself that where there is a will there is a way and parents with children diagnosed with DIPG will ask why, given the quality of research in the UK, no progress has been bade on survival rates since Neil Armstrong’s daughter died of this brain cancer in 1962. We saw this week the start of the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. As I stated earlier, this is remarkable and is the envy of the world. Whatever your view of the handling of the pandemic it is fact that no patient in need of hospital treatment, including a ventilator, has been denied it (this is not the case in other equally developed countries) and in just 9 months a vaccine has been developed in the UK that rigorous tests show is effective. I hope that people take up the vaccine voluntarily (I believe people will). I do not support the vaccine being made compulsory or the idea that people should be barred from taking part in certain activity if they have not been vaccinated. This is not in keeping with British freedoms and would be deeply divisive and damaging to society. I’ve no impression from Government that it takes a different view.
Another colossal challenge facing the Government is the urgent need to improve our homes. The UK housing stock is amongst the least efficient across Europe. This is something I’ve focused on as an MP not least because a healthy home improves children’s life-chances, reduces the demand on the NHS, saves social care £millions and reduces harmful emissions in bucket loads! It’s relevant this week as the All Part Group on healthy homes discussed the need for a cross-Government focus on this and discussed our White Paper on the issue. I chaired the meeting and it was good to see representatives from Cornwall taking part as we understand the challenge acutely. The APPG White Paper can be found at healthyhomesbuildings.org.uk
Finally, I want to pay credit and gratitude towards the firefighters, other emergency services and all those involved in the community response following the fire in St Ives last Friday night. The response to the appeal to replace the Christmas gifts and hampers has been amazing and I hope all the good work that goes on within the Salvation Army building can continue.