Lib Dem party conference: can localised health systems work?

Val Buxton This week I’ve been at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference where the word on every party spokesperson’s lips has been ‘localism’. “There’s been too much central control and not enough local freedom,” they tell us.

In the health system, the Lib Dem party spokespeople want to slash central targets and give local health professionals more say. But what does this mean for people affected by Parkinson’s?

We already see huge variations in the service people get, depending on where they live - so with no central drive to get national quality standards for Parkinson’s and other neurological services implemented, won’t inequalities get even worse?
Trevor Martin
That was the hot topic for our fringe event at the conference called “From Whitehall to the town hall – no longer a national health service?”

PDS member Trevor Martin (pictured right) told the audience about the difficulties people with Parkinson’s already face getting key services like specialist nursing and therapy, depending on where they live. The message was clear that everyone must be guaranteed access to health and social care that meets their needs, regardless of where decisions are made.

This is a message we’ll be taking to the Labour and Conservative conferences, running events and meetings with ministers and spokespeople, trying to make sure that whoever forms the next government, has Fair Care for Parkinson’s high on their agenda.

Val Buxton is Director of Policy, Campaigns and Information at the Parkinson’s Disease Society

Listen to end discrimination

Val BuxtonWe've been following – and contributing to – news today about a woman with Parkinson's disease in Gloucester who was asked not to attend her table tennis club on doubles day, due to fears she might injure other players.

This case is typical of the misperceptions people with Parkinson's may face. As Parkinson's is such an individual and fluctuating condition, it's really important that service providers talk to people affected to find out more about how the condition affects them.

We do hear about situations that could be interpreted as acts of disability discrimination. But it's often a lack of understanding that lies behind them.

The Parkinson's Disease Society aims to raise awareness of Parkinson's among the general public, Government, health and social care professionals and other organisations.

We also campaign to make sure that service providers are aware of anti-discrimination laws and implement them properly - including the requirement to make 'reasonable adjustments' to the way services are offered so that people with disabilities can access them.

We hope that all service providers will take the time to listen to their users - and take an inclusive approach - regardless of whether they are required to by law.

Our free Helpline offers support and advice. If you have experienced any form of discrimination phone 0808 800 0303.

Val Buxton is Director of Policy, Campaigns and Information at the Parkinson's Disease Society

Inspiration for the future

Steve Ford

This weekend I met Trevor Martin at our 2009 Annual Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon. Trevor, from the Weymouth and Dorchester Branch, is here with his wife Katherine. He told me about the great work they are doing by going into care homes in their local area to speak about their experience of living with Parkinson's.

Here at the conference, our members have also been getting involved by sharing their experiences and delivering our messages about our vision for the future - both up on the stage and in workshops.

This year's conference is a really important event for the organisation as we work together with members to build our ambitious plans for the next five years. I am making the most of the opportunity to listen to people with Parkinson’s and carers about the issues that are most important to them, to make sure we are on the right track.

I have heard so many great examples of how local groups and branches are reaching out to people with Parkinson's of all ages, attracting new supporters and influencing health professionals. In Wales, one of our very active members persuaded a local GP practice to give him a slot in their training day. Other branches around the UK have been holding breakfast and lunchtime meetings, to fit around the GPs' busy schedules and help them understand what it's like living with the condition.

What I find so encouraging about events like this conference is the shared determination to make our vision a reality - that we will find a cure, and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson's.

Steve Ford is Chief Executive of the Parkinson's Disease Society

The Annual Conference kicks off

Rachel RaymondThe Parkinson's Disease Society's Annual Conference starts today in Stratford-upon-Avon. There is a great atmosphere here as branch members, volunteers and staff meet and talk.

It's a popular event, and although places are limited - and completely filled - we make sure representatives can be here from as many branches and support groups as possible. It is a rare chance to share ideas, tips and advice, which is a really valuable part of the conference.

This year delegates can take part in workshops on research, campaigning and branch standards - and there's even a laughter workshop and Pilates class. There will be presentations on where the PDS is headed - and this year being our 40th Anniversary we'll be looking back on our successes too.

But it's not all work - I'm looking forward to Saturday night's karaoke session after the Gala dinner and dance, often an event to remember!

Updates from the conference will be posted on Twitter, Facebook and on our website

Rachel Raymond is Director of Community Services at the Parkinson's Disease Society

Volunteering benefits everyone

News continues to focus on the lack of job opportunities available, with new graduates amongst the latest to suffer the effects of the recession.

If you are looking for work, volunteering can be a positive and constructive way to spend your free time. The right opportunity can also help develop your communication skills, provide experience of working in a team and demonstrate your motivation to prospective employers. Even if you aren't looking for work, volunteering is a great way to meet new people and get involved in your local community.

At the Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS) we rely on volunteers to run our network of branches and support groups, take part in fundraising events and help raise awareness of the condition. There are a number of ways you can get involved

In the lead up to Christmas, we’re trying to find volunteers to donate their time to sell PDS Christmas cards as part of the Cards for Good Causes initiative. Cards for Good Causes is a non-profit organisation that sells Christmas cards on behalf of more than 320 charities including the PDS in temporary shops across the UK.

As well as gaining valuable work experience, you could also help thousands of people affected by Parkinson’s, as we’ll receive a minimum of 81p for every £1 sold. You can find out more about how to get involved by visiting the Cards for Good Causes page on our website.

For information on other volunteering opportunities where you live, contact the PDS Branch and Volunteer Support Officer in your region

Paul Jackson-Clark is Director of Fundraising at the Parkinson's Disease Society