With the parliamentary summer recess upon us the time has come to reflect on a short, but jam-packed, couple of months for the UK All Party Group on Global Tuberculosis. From a post-election recruitment drive to meetings with government Ministers, the work of the Group to raise the profile of and campaign for the eradication of this deadly disease continued apace in the first term of the new parliament.
As avid readers of the RESULTS’ blog will know, following the General Election for a variety of reasons the Group haemorrhaged members – members stepping down as MPs, being promoted to Government positions, losing their seats at the election – meaning that the group needed to recruit new members and elect new officers. A recruitment drive in the month following the election saw the APPG’s membership swell towards 40 members, and the Annual General Meeting which took place on the 16th June elected 5 officers of the Group, including 3 new officers. Andrew George MP became the Chair, with 4 vice-Chairs of Annette Brooke MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Baroness Masham of Ilton, and Mark Lancaster MP. With the APPG re-established and primed for action, APPG members took part in a number of events and activities looking at the twin focuses of TB internationally and TB in the UK.
On the domestic front, the work of the group centred on the London Mobile X-Ray Unit (MXU) and TB among hard to reach and ethnic minority communities. The MXU screens homeless people for TB in and around London. The homeless are at a far greater risk of developing active tuberculosis due to poor living conditions, weakened immune systems and exposure to factors such as drug and alcohol abuse.
The MXU service is due to run out of funding at the end of the year. Led by vice-Chair Baroness Masham, the APPG has been busy asking parliamentary questions, writing letters to Earl Howe (Health Minister in the Lords) and Anne Milton MP (Minister for Public Health) and organising a high-level roundtable of decision makers to discuss the future of the Unit.
An event was also held looking at TB in the UK addressing the questions of why rates are increasing, who is most at risk from the disease and what can be done to reverse this trend, with speakers including Priscilla Nkwenti (Chief Executive of the Black Health Agency), Mike Mandelbaum (Chief Executive of TB Alert, and Al Story and David Olapoju from the Find and Treat project.
Internationally, a number of meetings and campaigns have taken place, often working in coordination with other All Party Groups and health related NGOs. The replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was a major focus for the APPG over the last few months. The Fund, which accounts for two thirds of international TB financing, has its replenishment conference taking place in October. It is feared that many donor countries and organisations are less than forthcoming in offering to replenish the Fund’s coffers this time around. Members of the APPG (along with members of the APPGs on HIV and AIDS, Malaria and Reproductive Health) had a meeting with the vice-Chair of replenishment at the Global Fund, Richard Manning, to discuss replenishment. Following the meeting, APPG members tabled an Early Day Motion (number 532) calling for the UK to take a leading role in the replenishment process. Global Fund replenishment was also a major theme of a meeting toward the end of July held between several officers of the Group and the DFID Minister, Stephen O’Brien MP.
With the Millennium Development Goal Review Summit taking place in September, the APPG again partnered with the other global health APPGs to produce a set of ‘asks’, in a pamphlet titled ‘Health is Wealth’, for the UK Government to consider ahead of the MDG Review Summit. This document and an accompanying letter outlining the concerns of the APPG Chairs about the need to intensify efforts to reach the MDGs were sent to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Mitchell. A copy of this ‘Health is Wealth’ document can be downloaded from the APPG on Global TB’s website at www.appg-tb.org.uk.
The activity of the APPG will subside in the coming weeks as MPs leave Parliament for their constituencies over the summer recess. However, the shortened recess break means that the events, questions and campaigning will resume in September – in time for a final push ahead of the MDG Review Summit and the Global Fund’s Replenishment Conference.
The APPG on Global TB’s Secretariat is hosted by RESULTS UK.