On Monday I left the comfort of Somerset for the chaos of London, my train delayed, me sprinting for the tube, really not wanting to be late for an appointment in committee room two of the Upper Chamber in the Houses of Parliament! As I explained in my post on Friday I was there to listen to Lord Saatchi, Professor Andy Hall, Debbie Binner and Michael Ellis MP outline the importance of the Medical Innovation Bill which is being introduced as a 10 minute rule bill in the House of Commons at 11.30 this morning.
Much of what we heard was emotive and heart breaking. Lord Saatchi’s wife, the novelist Josephine Hart, died two years ago of Ovarian cancer, Debbie Binner’s daughter, Chloe, died of a rare cancer aged only 18 in February this year. Both had stories to tell of the sheer hell their loved ones went through and their frustration at a system which encourages the following of standard practice at whatever cost and doesn’t encourage innovation and research.
The Medical Innovation Bill, if successful, seeks to address this issue. It will not give a carte blanche to doctors to experiment willy nilly, as Maurice Saatchi said ‘We don’t want patients treated like mice, we do want bold, scientific innovation’. The Bill aims to clarify and codify in law what constitutes innovation and to provide ‘A clear path to what is lawful innovation and to remove the uncertainty and ambivalence in the current law.’
Professor Andy Hall (Director of the Northern Institute for Cancer Research) told us that in the 1950s medical articles criticised doctors for trying to treat childhood leukemia because it was ‘untreatable’ and ‘patients should just be made to be comfortable and get on with it’. Luckily doctors did innovate and we now have a fantastic 90% survival rate for childhood leukemia…but not for adult leukemia. Breast cancer used to be treated by double mastectomy and removing as much tissue as possible without actually killing the woman as a matter of course. Geoffrey Keynes innovated and removed only the tumour and undertook radiotherapy in combination – he was ridiculed and humiliated on the world stage and the term ‘lumpectomy’ was coined as a term of derision. Of course, today, the lumpectomy is standard procedure and has saved countless lives.
So why are doctors reluctant to innovate today? The answer lies firmly with the current appetite for litigation. We have, as a society, become more litigious. Michael Ellis MP told us how, in the past four years, the amount of money paid out by the NHS for medical negligence claims has doubled, reaching £1.2 billion in the last financial year. By the NHS’s own calculation, on cases stacked against it pending court decisions, the NHS faces a bill of £19 billion. In these circumstances doctors and health care trusts are much less likely to step outside standard procedures to find better ways to treat patients because the law doesn’t protect them.
I have lots to say on this issue and I will be writing more as the Bill, hopefully, progresses through the slow Parliamentary process. What the Bill needs is public support and this is where we come in. I hope that my last two posts have made you think – if you have commented and I haven’t answered, I will, life has been very busy and I’m not always sitting behind this screen tapping away!
If you want to help.
Please keep reading as I post over the next few months
Write to your MP and encourage them to vote for the Medical Innovation Bill.
If you blog please write about it. I have Q&A sheets and more information I can let you have.
Talk about it with family and friends. I was chatting in the playground yesterday and a very interesting discussion ensued. As above, if you want more information, please ask.
Follow @SaatchiBill and #SaatchiBill on Twitter
Above all, start a debate, start talking – as Michael Ellis MP said ‘We need to reject the status quo when the status quo is not working‘
You can watch the livestream in the House of Commons today at 11.30am as Michael Ellis has 10 minutes to present the Bill to MPs
You can help us make politicians sit up and take notice because that is when they act, that is when they change things and this really needs changing.
Many of the bloggers around the table shared their own stories and several of them have already blogged. I can’t share my stories because they are not mine to tell – I can’t write about my godmother and my godfather much as I would like to – but, if you have a story you want to share in support of this campaign please get in touch and I will happily share it on Thinly Spread.
This wasn’t a bad place to go for a chat on a Monday morning. I’m so proud that blogging and bloggers are now so central to debate that we go to work in the Houses of Parliament, that our voices are valued and needed and that we really can help to bring about change.
You can read more on these blogs (I’ll add more as they appear):
Tired Mummy of Two