THE fight for extra government cash to tackle childhood cancer, launched by the parents of tragic tot Poppy-Mai Barnard, was taken to Westminster last night.
Dad Andy and wife Sammi travelled to Parliament to hear MPs call for urgent government action.
The special three-hour debate in the Westminster Hall chamber was sparked by a 116,000-signature petition raised by the couple after their daughter died in March from a rare malignant tumour aged just 17 months.
It urged the NHS to raise awareness of childhood cancer and bring forward extra funding for research and care.
Bath MP Ben Howlett, who lead the debate, was backed by the Barnards’ MP Kate Hollern and her Burnley colleague and Labour health spokeswoman Julie Cooper.
The online petition, launched in August by the Barnards, of Infirmary, Blackburn, calls for the government to ‘make more funding available in the fight against child cancer’. It said: “Not enough is being done to spread awareness. These beautiful children need our help.” Mr Barnard said “We are not giving up.
“We want the child cancer treatment, research and funding to be at the forefront of the NHS.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on donations from the public, where families of sick children are rallying around in desperation.
“These children have been on an incredible journey and all of the time the funding is coming from donations.
“MPs need to change the law as it doesn’t have to be this way.”
During the debate Mrs Hollern said: “We need more money for research into childhood cancer to improve our understanding of it.
“We also need more money for the care of children with cancer.
“The tragic case of Poppy-Mai shows the need for both.”
Mrs Cooper said: “We need action to speed up the diagnosis of cancer in children. I am seeking assurances of continuing the vital research into this issue.
“I also want the government to improve access to care for children with cancer.”
Mr Howlett told public health minister Nicola Blackwood that although childhood cancer was rare, every year 3,800 children are diagnosed with the disease.
He said: “Sadly 260 under-15s die each year and many who survive suffer long-term health problems.
“I thank the Barnards for raising this incredibly important issue which has such devastating consequences for so many families.
“There is still much to be done on tackling childhood cancer in terms of early diagnosis, research and awareness as this petition calls for.”
He said the case of singer Michael Buble’s three-year-old son Noah, recently diagnosed with liver cancer, had hit the headlines.
He called for improved awareness campaigns, including education for GPs, better funding and incentives for research, and improved sharing of data.
Miss Blackwood said: “We want to lead the world in fighting cancer.
“Survival rates have never been higher, but we want to go further.
“Cancer services for children, teenagers and young adults have improved significantly but the NHS needs to consider the best structure for continued improved care.”