The NHS Long Term Plan (for England) was published on Monday 7 January. This was eagerly awaited by charities, healthcare professionals and, most importantly, patients alike
It had suffered delays to its release due to the ongoing Brexit wranglings in Westminster, but when Parliament returned the delay could go on no longer and details started to emerge from both the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health & Social Care on Sunday.
The plan is a total of 136 pages, and there is much detail contained within them, but also broader aspirations for the long term future of the NHS. There is a real desire to update the NHS into a world leader in the use of data and technology to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
There is no question that there is good news in the plan for brain tumour patients.
The reiteration that 5-ALA will be made available is excellent news and something that we had previously campaigned tirelessly on, alongside our incredible healthcare professionals. It is excellent that the work done to get this rolled out was used as a basis for a wider commitment to get new technology from innovation to 'business as usual'.
It was also great to see that all cancer patients, including those with secondary brain tumours, will get access to a clinical nurse specialist. With only three-quarters of high grade patients having access according to our quality of life study in 2015, we know that this is something that can make a real difference to people's lives as they get access to the support that they need.
One big commitment that will help shape the future for brain tumour patients for years to come is around the use of technology. Our own BRIAN project is leading the way in transforming outcomes and will have the power to shape research and offer practical information directly to patients.
This commitment is for the NHS to work with the voluntary sector on disease specific apps and improved governance to ensure technical barriers don't get in the way of innovation.
Undoubtedly there is some disappointment from the plan as the Less Survivable Cancers failed to get the dedicated attention they so desperately need to make up the variance in survival rates.
We had worked with the Less Survivable Cancer Taskforce to ask for a survival target, and this was not included. The frustration felt has already been articulated by Nic Dakin MP in a debate on cancer workforce and early diagnosis as he, as Chair of the APPG on Cancer, has encouraged there to be more specific plans for these cancers.
There is also some real concern around the implementation of this plan, and the biggest gap has been the lack of a full workforce plan, something which is apparently coming later in the year.
We need to not only recruit to the NHS, filling the one in 11 vacant clinical posts but also retain the NHS staff, adequately rewarding and incentivising them to ensure that they are valued. This requires careful consideration of the demands placed on those working in the NHS and without this dedicated group of people the commitments in the plan will be unable to be implemented.
The commitment to work with the voluntary sector on apps for specific conditions is great for the brain tumour community, especially when considering the BRIAN project, but its implementation challenges are substantial. The NHS will need to employ specialists in this field to understand the full complexities.
The detail of how this will be done is currently unclear and they will need to develop processes that enable this sector to enhance the work of the NHS.
In response to this plan, we, in turn, make one commitment: that we will continue to fight for brain tumour patients and their families to have access to the best treatment and care through the NHS.