Reflections: Our achievements in 2009

Steve Ford It's the end of our 40th Anniversary year and I'm snowed in at home with seemingly no trains running out of Kent! So it's a good opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months.

It's really been a fantastic year in so many ways. We've had record number of new Parkinson's nurses appointed in all parts of the UK. Our new national network of Information and Support Workers is now supporting people with Parkinson's across the whole of the UK.

In campaigning, we've pushed our message through the Fair Care for Parkinson's campaign across to decision makers in all 4 UK countries, and have a review of neurology services on the agenda for England in 2010.

We launched the Parkinson's Brain Donor Appeal in April during our Awareness Week, to encourage more people to pledge to donate their brains to Parkinson's research. 2,332 people have signed up to the register this year, more than doubling the original number of people on the list.

And the success of the appeal hit the headlines today, with Dr Kieran Breen, our Director of Research and Development, appearing on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and the Today Programme. I’d like to thank everyone who has signed up so far but we still need more people to sign up to the register. This has been our most successful media campaign to date, with over 700 pieces of coverage and 2 communications awards

But looking back, what has really encouraged me has been the way that the voice of people living with Parkinson's has had a much stronger influence than ever before. It's this voice that gives us the passion and determination to build on our achievements in 2010.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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

2009: A breakthrough year

Dr Kieran BreenIt's been a fantastic year for research at the Parkinson's Disease Society, and a fitting celebration of our 40th Anniversary and four decades of discovery

This year we have invested more than £4million in 24 cutting edge research projects, exploring everything from what causes Parkinson's, to better treatments and a cure

Parkinson's Awareness Week in April saw the public respond in their thousands to our Brain Donor Appeal. We smashed our target to double the number of people on our brain donor register by the end of 2009 - which will boost Parkinson's research all over the world.

In August, research we funded at the University of Sheffield uncovered a major new lead for Parkinson's. Researchers found that stimulating a pathway inside nerve cells may be the key to developing new drugs that could slow or halt the progression of the condition.

But perhaps the thing I'm most excited about is The Monument Discovery Award. This groundbreaking project will be the largest we've ever funded at £5million over 5 years. It brings together a world-class team of researchers at the University of Oxford to accelerate progress towards a cure for Parkinson's.

Thanks to you we are making a difference and building momentum towards our ultimate goal – a cure.

I don't know about you but I can't wait for 2010.

Dr Kieran Breen is Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson's Disease Society

New treatments: thinking outside the box

Dr Kieran BreenLast week I joined almost 600 medical research executives, scientists, policy makers, and funders for the Partnering for Cures meeting in New York.

The first meeting of its kind, it aimed to bridge the gap between charitable and medical research organisations like the Parkinson’s Disease Society, and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Partnering for Cures is the brainchild of FasterCures - an organisation whose goal is to accelerate the pace of discovery and development of new therapies.

The diverse programme explored innovative ways of working which will help us speed up the development of new treatments.

It was interesting to hear Michael Milken the Chairman of FasterCures, and Jeffrey Kindler CEO and Chairman of the Board at Pfizer discuss the challenges facing medical research.

It got me thinking about what we can do. I want to:

By thinking ‘outside the box’ when it comes to research, we can open more doors to finding a cure for Parkinson’s faster. It’s a message I’ll be passing on to my charitable and research colleagues.

Dr Kieran Breen is Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson's Disease Society

    Giving a voice to carers

    Steve Ford

    I was talking to a carer recently who mentioned how easy it is for her to neglect her own needs, and how lonely and isolating life can be at times.

    Today we celebrate the tenth Carers Rights Day, set up by the charity Carers UK. The day aims to shout about the great work that carers do, and make sure that carers are aware of the benefits and support they are entitled to.

    Dave Clark from our Policy and Campaigns team used to work at Carers UK and helped organise that first Carers Rights Day. He has been telling me this week about how much the day has grown in importance. On that first day ten years ago, just over 100 groups ran events.

    This year around 1500 local groups are taking part, from carers' centres, GPs' surgeries, councils, libraries, charities, hospices and many other community groups - reflecting the large numbers of carers who struggle to find out what support is available to them.

    We are committed to supporting carers of people with Parkinson’s, and this year we have held our own carers' information events in every region of the UK. It’s shocking that despite increased awareness of the true cost of caring, carers still get the lowest income replacement benefit, at just £53.10 per week.

    We support the Carers Poverty Charter to reform carers' benefits, and you can add your support to this campaign.

    Our own free publication, The Carer's Guide, offers help and advice on all aspects of living with someone with Parkinson’s, and and our online discussion forum has a space where carers can share experiences and support each other through the changing circumstances that Parkinson’s can bring.

    Let’s hear it for all carers in the UK.

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