Visit to the House of Commons………..on MACP business!
Clair Hebron kindly(?!) asked me to represent the MACP at the National Arthritis Week 2013 Parlimentary Reception from 1-3pm on Wednesday 9 October 2013. Chris Mercer was originally invited (they were not up to date with the change in Chair) and because the MACP AGM was the day after, Clair was unable to go. This didn’t sound up my street, but it was a day out and something different, so I agreed. I turned up early outside and just as well as there was a long queue of people going in for various functions, and here was I thinking the red carpet would be out. I got chatting to the man behind me who happened (!) to be the chief executive of the Natural History Museum. What does one say after ‘weather is nice and do you come here often?’ (and yes he did come here often). I was clearly punching above my weight. Thankfully the lady behind me joined in who was also some high flier strategist who had just come for the DoH…………don’t ask me anything more as not quite clear what she did do, whatever it was it was very, very clever. He was off to a different function but before we parted our ways his top tip to me in ‘working the room’ was to just get stuck in and introduce yourself to people and don’t be afraid to interrupt; ok helpful advice I thought. There was high security to get in (hence the queue) with all the equipment of an airport. The security lady opened up my lipstick (I’d left it in my pocket and so was handed to her rather than go through the xray machine)- wondering what on earth she thought she would find – and then eventually said ‘like the colour’! Oh the British dry humour, how I love it.
Well finally got through and on to Dining Room A, to arrive almost bang on time. This was a small thin rectangular side room but with plenty of drinks and nibbles at one end, a makeshift stand/stage in the middle and a photo booth at the other end. There were a few people in clusters and so I made a bee line for a drink, asked the bar staff about what I could eat if gluten and sugar free (they later produced a lovely plate of suitable food) and found someone to talk to. Started off with a chat with Steve McCabe MP Selly Oak, Birmingham (http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/steve-mccabe/298) who told me about a relative with inflammatory arthritis who was finally helped by a specialised physiotherapist (?MACP). I managed to say a few words about the MACP and how fantastic we all were(!) and gave him a postcard for future reference. The place had filled up and there were probably around 45 people in the end. I saw Phil Gray, Chief Executive of the CSP from a distant but never got to say hello, he was in full flow with a group and seemed to already know quite a few people (as I guess you’d expect). I took the tip and interrupted a group introducing myself and again telling them (eventually) about the MACP; they each got a postcard -thank you Terry). One person in the group was Dr Louise Warburton who is a GP and President of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society (https://www.pcrsociety.org/). I looked her up afterwards.
There were then a few short (thankfully) speeches. The MP, Linda Riordan (Chair for the All Party Parlimentary Group on Chronic Pain) introduced and welcomed everyone. Stephen Wolstenholme then talked about having arthritis and against advice had got back to running and was doing well. Professor Peter Kay (no, not the comedian), National Clinical Director for MSK Conditions, NHS England talked sensibly about arthritis and the value of Arthritis Research UK. Finally Dr Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive, Arthritis Research UK gave a very good speech about the proposals being put forward. The charity is calling for changes to improve the health and wellbeing for people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. These include:
· Musculoskeletal conditions to be included in Public Health England’s strategic priorities;
· A call for NHS England to fulfil the NHS Mandate objective to offer everyone with a long term condition a personalised care plan
· NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre to prioritise the systematic collection of data about musculoskeletal conditions within the NHS. Further information can be found at:http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/news/press-releases/2013/october/arthritis-research-uk-welcomes-political-leaders-support-for-national-arthritis-week.aspx#sthash.cIWgjT3U.dpuf and http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/
These proposals seemed very sensible and I got quite excited about what they were saying. I got to chat with Liam immediately after and told him about the MACP and of course gave him a postcard. He seemed more interested in having a further conversation about AHPRN and potential links the two organisations may have, but at least he got a postcard.
I then began to feel tired, always find it exhausting being on my best behaviour with strangers, and particularly so when not really sure what to say to anyone, except have you heard of the MACP and please take one of these postcards. It was 2.40pm and decided to call it a day. On my way out, took the opportunity to have my photo taken holding a placard ‘I support Arthritis Research UK’ and wondering whether I’ll ever get sent it – nothing so far. Have a feeling it would be for the MPs who dropped in to ?have lunch. Dusted my feet off and headed for some retail therapy!