When I was asked to sit on the panel at the All Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group (APPTG) Annual Conference as a patient representative I leapt at the chance. And so last week I found myself participating in a meeting right at the seat of power in the Palace of Westminster.
Somewhat fittingly for my visit to our great symbol of democracy, my plans for a stroll from Waterloo had been thwarted by thousands of students exercising their right to free speech, in protest at higher education tuition fees and the lack of employment opportunities for young people.
As I emerged from Westminster Tube I found the protest to be good natured but noisy, the sounds of police helicopters hovering over Westminster Bridge competing with whistles and shouts from the students prevented from entering Parliament Square by hundreds of officers forming a thin blue line, on foot and on horseback.
Having queued in the rain to pass through security I proceeded from the Cromwell Green entrance through the cavernous and ancient Westminster Hall, arriving at Central Lobby, the octagonal heart of the Houses of Parliament. From there I was directed to Committee Room 10 overlooking the Thames from the first floor.
I’ve been to many a meeting in some very impressive Board Rooms throughout my career supporting company Chairmen and Chief Executives, but none that matched the oak panelled grandeur of Committee Room 10 in the House of Commons. The room was lined with tiered seating for more than 120 people, and was dominated by large artworks, including Frank O Salisbury’s depiction of The Burial of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, 1920, in the presence of Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra, King George V, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), his younger brother the Duke of York (the future George VI) and Prince Henry.
I was fully aware of the historic surroundings in which I was invited to the panel to represent the patient perspective in the prevention of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE).
VTE is a collective term for the better known DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and lesser known PE (Pulmonary Embolism) – blood clots that form in the deep veins (DVT), most often of the legs but also other parts of the body, blocking blood flow back to the heart and which may break off and travel to the lungs forming a potentially fatal PE.
The APPTG, chaired by Andrew Gwynne MP, was formed in 2006 bringing together cross-party Parliamentarians to work with NHS leaders and clinicians to effect change and reduce the number of preventable and fatal cases of VTE in hospitals.
It is estimated that 35,000 people in England die as a result of blood clots each year. Of these 35,000 VTE’s, a shocking 25,000 are associated, not with long distance flights, the contraceptive pill or other high profile risk factors, but with a stay in hospital.
Hospital associated thrombosis (HAT) kills more people each year than AIDS, breast cancer and traffic accidents combined, and more than 25 times the number of deaths from MRSA.
As a survivor of one post-flight DVT and one HAT, I was honoured to represent the 35,000 VTE victims in England each year, as well as the many thousands of survivors, many of whom live with new conditions brought on by VTEs. My role on the panel was to relay patient concerns and bring the patient perspective to the process of improving patient information, raising awareness of risks and recognition of symptoms, in order to reduce the number of preventable deaths.
Please be aware that while reading this your own risk of DVT has increased. If you have been sitting at your desk for 90 minutes, the circulation of blood to your legs has reduced to 50% flow. Immobility is the most common cause of DVT in people of all ages and fitness levels, so it’s time to jump up, and move around for a few minutes.
Just leave it with me supports Lifeblood, The Thrombosis Charity, and in National Thrombosis Week 2013 will sponsor an event raising funds to help educate medical professionals and raise awareness amongst the public.
I am proud to be a patient representative for Lifeblood and the VTE National Nursing and Midwifery Network.