Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Please Help Reduce Childhood Brain Tumours in Your Constituency

Dear Colleague, As Chairman of the Brain Tumour APPG, I am writing to you to seek your support for The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours in children. I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you to write to your local councils to request that they distribute the charity’s free awareness cards to schools and health practices in your constituency.

Around 500 children each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour and a quarter will die as a result. Many more will survive but with life-changing disabilities caused by radical treatment. Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children in the UK – killing more children than leukaemia - and are the biggest cause of preventable blindness in children.

While more research will ultimately pave the way for better treatments and a cure, there is much we can do now to make sure that fewer children die or are left maimed as a result of the disease. Making sure that brain tumours are diagnosed early by doctors is essential to providing effective and less-intrusive treatments and a key aim of the HeadSmart campaign is to inform parents, GPs and healthcare professionals of what to look for when symptoms present.

HeadSmart was developed in 2011 as a result of an NHS Evidence-accredited best practice guideline to assist clinicians in the assessment of children and young people. Since then, it has won several awards and helped reduce the time to diagnosis from 9.1 weeks in 2011 to 6.9 weeks today.

This is still one of the longest waits in the developed world and that is why I am seeking your help to increase awareness in your constituency.

So far, the HeadSmart campaign has seen more than 900,000 awareness cards distributed across the country. These pocket-sized cards detail the symptoms to look for and offer advice on what to do if parents have any concerns. The cards are free and are sent to local authorities boxed and labeled by The Brain Tumour Charity – the charity only needs councils or their departments of public health to agree to distribute the cards to schools and GPs through their existing supply chains.

As a recent example of where this has worked, officers at Hampshire County Council were introduced to the HeadSmart campaign in 2013 after one of the charity’s supporters contacted Caroline Nokes MP about it. As a result of Caroline’s letter to the council, the charity has recently disseminated more than 165,000 cards to schools across the county – which account for 2% of the UK’s school age population – and more than 500 information packs to GPs. This will have a huge impact and came at no cost to the council.

Over time, and with more schools and health practices involved, we should see the time to diagnosis drop to five weeks or below – and more children saved - in line with the US and Europe.

If you would like to find out more about the HeadSmart campaign, please have a look at the website at www.headsmart.org.uk. James Walsh manages the campaign from the charity’s offices in Farnborough and, if you can help raise awareness in your constituency, he can be contacted on 01252 418192 or by email at james.walsh@thebraintumourcharity.org.

With very best wishes,

Andrew Selous