As somebody with a very fine sense of my own importance, not many of you who know me will be unaware that I recently visited Parliament.
Rab was convinced that I was going to take over the running of the country. While I am both bossy and opinionated, I was educated at a Comprehensive so lack the prerequisite background of most of our current Parliamentarians.
The Glory had suggested something altogether more anarchic, but as I believe in democracy not revolution I was not about to comply.
The present Houses of Parliament were built in the 19th century, there has been a Palace of Westminster on the spot since the 11th, and the buildings have been used for meetings of law makers for at least 500 years. There are places which have come to symbolise London, and this is one of them. Despite its presence on tea towels and the news, familiarity has not bred contempt in my case. I am always surprised by how architecturally beautiful it is. The stone is golden and it glows.
There are three things I feel absolutely passionately about, Science, Politics and Pearl (not necessarily in that order).
In my mind everything in life is about Science. How the sun rises, how we carry information genetically from one generation to another, even our washing powder, all science. As long as people remain curious there will be scientific discoveries. We will never classify, describe, collate everything. Science is infinite and has infinite possibilities.
Politics, similarly. Politics is everywhere. Not just how we vote, but how we structure society, how we spend money, what we as society place value on, it is all politics. Whatever your opinion on the current bunch of movers and shakers we are a very fortunate country. Thank goodness for democracy and universal suffrage.
As for Pearl, well in my life everything is about Pearl. Every waking thought, every sleeping dream is related to one small girl. Has she had her meds? Will she remain fit free? How will her muscles age? Will she ever talk? My life is Pearlescent.
Imagine my delight when I was invited with a group of SWAN bloggers and area reps, to combine a day of science, politics and Pearl. What could be more perfect? Oh and I got to meet lots of faces I have only seen on-line, and was allowed a day trip to the Big Smoke into the bargain.
An All Party Parliamentary Group is an informal cross party group of Members of Parliament. It has no status within Parliament, and is several stages away from the statute process.It is actually one of the bread and butter workings of Parliament that our politicians get involved with regularly. APPG is effectively a committee meeting. Non partisan, it raises awareness of issues, educates those who take part and promotes cross party working.
This particular APPG is The All Party Parliamentary Group on Rare and Undiagnosed Conditions. It met to discuss (with geneticists, medics, scientists, pharmaceutical representatives and SWAN parents) what we do with some of the new abilities we have to decipher the genome. Is diagnosis always possible? (no) Is it always a good thing? (largely yes). How do parents feel about it? (varies). How do professionals handle giving the news? (meh). Who helps the parents? (why SWAN UK of course!). Many parents had been involved in information giving and discussion in previous meetings. This was an opportunity for the report that followed to be shared with everyone involved.
The meeting was ably chaired by Ben Howlett MP for Bath, who also managed to press gang George Freeman Minister of Life Sciences at the Department of Health into speaking. Wonderfully both had a very able grasp of the issues, as did all the other speakers. Sarah Oakes mother of Joel spoke clearly and informatively about her experience of diagnosis, resonating strongly with our experiences as a family who have taken part in the DDD study. Read what she had to say here http://www.undiagnosed.org.uk/news/newsandevents/joel
Alistair Kent from Genetic Alliance reminded everyone that the parents,child and families of the study need to be forefront of the process, no matter how exciting the science.
George Freeman proposed a future where NICE (how we decide what is prescribable to who) guidelines may be relaxed to allow drug trials of relevant drugs to those with genetic or undiagnosed conditions. As a parent it felt very inclusive and collaboratory.
We all watched Renata Blower’s brilliant video about professionals working in partnership with parents you can watch it here : http://www.buff.ly/1s4tQGp
Of course what you really want to know is was there cake? Indeed and amazing canapés. Also wine,which in my role as a taxpayer I felt I should try on your behalf.
My MP David Rutley, graciously responded to my invitation and came,and has subsequently been informed (!) by me of some of the difficulties we’ve experienced,and how they are likely to effect his other constituents. (He also recommended some of the sausages,which I was being far too polite to consume).
So how did I find the experience (the Reception rather than the sausages,which were incidentally delicious). It was immensely heartening to see cross parliamentary working, to be taken seriously by professionals and politicians, and to hear that they often want to do away with bureaucracy as much as we do. I can only hope that young politicians rising up the ranks such as Ben Howlett, will be able to ensure that Parliamentary process remains relevant and not unnecessarily bogged down in historical red tape. We all want a government run by the people for the people, and that is what our Parliamentary representatives should be, people who stand up for their constituents whatever the political persuasion.
So what is the outcome of the APPG what has it achieved? The report is excellent,and a resource for patient,parent and professionals alike.There are also amazing pictures of beautiful rare and undiagnosed individuals along with their experiences take a look. Hopefully it should give some guidelines on how to apply some amazing scientific advances.
“Genome sequencing continues to become quicker and cheaper with every passing week and the NHS must take advantage of the clinical benefits that will arise in parallel. However, as it does so,the real people behind the data must not be forgotten. For families who receive a genetic diagnosis, it’s not the end of the road; they still care for a child with complex medical needs every day. By implementing the recommendations in this report the journey for families accessing genome sequencing will be smoother and provide the care that these families really need”
Undiagnosed. Genetic Conditions and the Impact of Genome Sequencing. 2016
As a parent I feel hopeful about this.
As a parent I also feel concerned that all the beautiful guidelines in the world, will not help anybody, if austerity measures continue to lead to cutbacks in frontline education, health and social service budgets. Good communication is key, but so are people in clinics, if parents are to receive effective support. This was something I put to both of the MPs I spoke to,and something I will continue to bang on about for the good of science, politics, and my Pearl.
Pearl will always be more expensive than her siblings, she will always require support,and will never be able to pay this help back into the economy financially. None the less her life is just as valuable as that of any politician in the highest government in the land.
Remain engaged with politics, and science. Also engage with Pearl by following thewrongkindogsnow.
Check out the work of the Genetic Alliance: http://www.geneticalliance.org.uk
SWAN UK: http://www.undiagnosed.org.uk
And if you are a professional take a look at Renata’s vlog to see how we as parents appreciate your good practice.