There has been some great news for blood cancer patients coming from Parliament recently. Firstly, Henry Smith, the MP for Crawley (and someone I met with last year), has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) specifically on blood cancer. The group will look into the key issues affecting patients with blood cancers, and is an acknowledgement that MPs understand that haematological cancers are very different to solid tumours – in the impact they have on patients as well as the need for different kinds of information, support and treatments to be available. MPs who will sit on the APPG include Jim Shannon, Colleen Fletcher and Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips Bloodwise will provide the secretariat to the group. I hope to engage with the APPG soon, and will update you as to how I get on.

In addition to this, Jim Shannon and Henry Smith hosted a debate in the House of Commons last week to discuss blood cancers and the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, saw a number of MPs from different political parties discuss issues relating to the diagnosis, management and treatment of different blood cancers. Many of the MPs had had personal experience of blood cancer and spoke about how their families had been affected and the need to improve patient access to vital, life-extending medicines. Improved awareness of the signs and symptoms of blood cancers for GPs was also noted as being crucial to improving diagnosis rates and earlier diagnosis.

Another topic repeatedly raised during the debate was the appraisal methods used by NICE which don’t work for blood cancer medicines, which generally treat very small numbers of patients and don’t fit the usual model by which NICE evaluates the “value” of a drug. The ‘postcode lottery’ which exists in terms of patient access to treatment was also covered, something which I have campaigned extensively on, particularly in the case of Khalid Younis who could only access treatment with ponatinib by moving to Wales as the drug is not approved in England.

The creation of the APPG and the debate are very positive steps towards getting improved recognition of blood cancer. Parliamentarians focussing on the key issues can only be a good thing for patients. Whether or not your local MP is on the list of people who attended the debate or not (below), I would encourage you to write to them to ask them to support the APPG and get involved in campaigning for improvements to the lives of anyone affected by blood cancer.

The MPs who contributed to the debate were:

  • Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford
  • Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley
  • Colleen Fletcher, Labour MP for Coventry North East
  • Maggie Throup, Conservative MP for Erewash
  • Martyn Day, SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk
  • Nigel Dodds, DUP MP for North Belfast
  • Nic Dakin, Labour MP Scunthorpe
  • Dianne Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North; Shadow Health Secretary.
  • George Freeman, Life Sciences Minister

Thanks, Kris

Kris Griffin and Henry Smith MP

Kris Griffin and Henry Smith MP