Category: Health

Commonwealth Future Luncheon

Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at Commonwealth Future’s luncheon for the launch of their ‘2020 Vision’ campaign to promote eye care and the avoidance of preventable eyesight throughout the Commonwealth. 

Lord Sheikh was pleased to speak about the Commonwealth having grown up in East Africa and visited a number of the 54 countries. Lord Sheikh has in fact led a debate and spoken in the House of Lords several times on the subject of the Commonwealth as it is an enduring symbol of unity and perhaps the greatest of all international associations. 

Lord Sheikh made the point that more can be done to bring Commonwealth countries closer and we need to be innovative and establish new initiatives. One such initiative is the ‘2020 Vision’ campaign by Commonwealth Future. 

Commonwealth Future hopes to equalise the standard of Optometry throughout the Commonwealth and help improve vision through the use of optical aids, which are easier in a volume-based population. They wish to emphasise the importance on human prosperity and equality on correcting one’s sight. Lord Sheikh feels that eyesight is of great importance to quality of life and he in fact has his own foundation which supports charities who perform eye surgeries in developing countries.

The luncheon bought together like-minded guests from prestigious backgrounds who are interested in shaping the future of the Commonwealth.

Health: Neglected Tropical Diseases

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for initiating this timely debate. Neglected tropical diseases form a group of 17 diseases, and as one who was born and brought up in Africa, I have seen the effects of some of them. They often affect the poorest of people in the hardest to reach areas. Because most of these diseases do not exist in more developed nations, it is easy to forget just how prevalent they are in other parts of the world. They cause death or weaken individuals, putting them at risk of being affected by other conditions. They damage the lives of more than 1 billion people across the globe and cost millions of pounds in healthcare and loss of production.

Large-scale diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis receive worldwide media attention and a great deal of research and funding, including commendable commitments from our own successive Governments. However, it must be acknowledged that in some parts of the world, the combined impact of the neglected diseases is comparable to that of the likes of malaria. We must come to terms with the scale of the task at hand. Some diseases are at risk of spreading further, so it is important that we do all we can to stop that happening.

As with so many of the world’s ills, the key to nipping the problem in the bud will be as much prevention as possible. It is now one year since the London declaration made a call to the world to work together in order to support and realise the World Health Organisation’s 2020 Roadmap on Neglected Tropical Diseases. I was pleased to read the WHO’s second report on NTDs, published earlier this month. It highlights what it describes as “unprecedented progress” made over the past two years. A regular supply of medicines and general worldwide strategic support has resulted in a vast improvement in the health of many people. There now seems to be a much closer focus on simplifying and fine-tuning the logistics of getting medication to as many people as possible in the most cost-effective ways. The outlook has shifted away from instigating the strategy to progressing it in a sustainable way, and the 2020 road map to control or eliminate at least 10 diseases by the end of the decade seems to be firmly in sight.

Today marks the launch of the London Centre of Neglected Tropical Disease Research, which is another huge milestone in taking forward further research and, more importantly, providing a bricks-and-mortar hub for continued global co-ordination. We should all be extremely proud that this global initiative has been based here in London from outset-from the coalition of organisations through to the declaration, and now to the establishment of this centre. The United Kingdom has a reputation for identifying and honouring its moral duty to assist others, and our leadership of this initiative continues that fine tradition. Just last year, our Government committed £195 million to support the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases. In a wider context, this initiative serves as the perfect example of what can be achieved when people come together and collaborate for the greater good. Governments, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, funding agencies and philanthropists have all provided expertise and resources that have resulted in measurable impacts being made in the affected communities.


CMF Health Event

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Conservative Muslim Forum Health branch held an event in the House of Lords titled “GYNAECOLOGICAL TRAIL OF EVENTS IN ASIAN WOMEN’S HEALTH”.

The talk was held by Dr Surraiya Zia and covered specific problems relevant to women’s health, how cultural and religious awareness issues affect the provision of services and the help and advice available in some areas and the lack of it in other areas.

Birth rate amongst immigrants, infertility, malignancy, lack of midwives of ethnic origin and the way forward were also discussed.




CMF Health Event on Cardiology and Nutrition

The Conservative Muslim Forum organised an event on Heart Disease and Obesity at the House of Lords on 20 June 2012.  The event was co-chaired by Lord Sheikh (chairman of the CMF) Dr M Farrukh Hussain, consultant psychiatrist and chair of CMF Health.  Dr Shakeel Qureshi, a renowned Consultant Cardiologist at St Thomas’s Hospital and of Pakistani origin gave a presentation using PowerPoint on different types of heart diseases, their reasons, treatments and the latest advances and developments in his field of work.

The presentation covered the diagnosis of heart diseases and their treatments.  Dr Shakeel said that the incidence of heart diseases in people of South Asian origin is higher than in other communities in the UK.  He added that fatty foods and static life styles are responsible for that.  The presentation also covered the diagnosis of heart diseases in unborn babies and the latest techniques for their treatment in situ.  The session ended with an interesting, informative and knowledge enhancing Q & A session.

The nutritionist, Mr Phil Veasey, talked about the escalating challenge of obesity, especially among UK Asians and its causes and solutions.  He gave a description of his MEND programme (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do It!) and its application resulting in the achievement of good results in the Asian community amongst youth in East London.  He also gave an overall picture of the problem of obesity, with the help of a PowerPoint presentation, to drive home the points relevant to overweight individuals and how this leads to ill health and diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and stroke.  There were very useful and relevant questions from participants.  As a token of the CMF’s thanks, Lord Sheikh presented both speakers with mementos of their visit to House of Lords and their useful presentations.

In the picture, Lord Sheikh is seated in the centre, and on his left are Dr Hussain, Dr Qureshi and Mr Veasey.

CMF Health – visit by Rt. Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP

The Conservative Muslim Forum held a meeting last year when the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley outlined the Government’s proposals for major changes in the NHS and its service delivery.  Lord Sheikh, who is the Chairman of the CMF, invited him back to speak at our event on 13th June 2012 for update on the proposed changes.

Opening the meeting, Lord Sheikh said that major and fundamental changes were much needed for the good of everyone’s health and this has been achieved by the Health & Social Care Bill becoming law.

Dr Farrukh Hussain, Chair of the Health Group of CMF and also Chair of the Pakistani Professionals’ Forum introduced the speaker to the room which was full with a keen audience.  He said that Andrew Lansley had succeeded in the face of great opposition from the Nurses Union, the BMA, GPs, Hospitals, Doctors and Consultants, in fact from the entire medical establishment.  He deserved full credit for that achievement.

The Health Secretary highlighted that tele-health will support the redesign of health services, stating that “Tele-health is not just the technology; it’s the way to redesign the service.”

He added that strong leadership would be needed from within the service for the changes and involving a GP & Clinical Led Patients and Intelligence Directorate, a National Commissioning Board, and a Special Health Authority.

The future is in computers and monitors on the desks of all GPs.  One for accessing databases such as patient records; the other for remote consultations to make life easier for both doctors and patients by sharing records electronically between GPs and consultants. The sharing of records will allow consultants to email a provisional opinion within 24 hours, and that technology will continue to change medicine further.  There could be such changes as consultations via video-link.

He assured the audience that the health commissioning process is on track and that the NHS budget is not to be cut. Instead savings will be made to help increase spending on NHS facilities in the areas and specialities which need to be developed to improve health facilities.

In the picture above, Andrew Lansley is speaking with Lord Sheikh on his right and Dr Hussain on his left.

Health: Maternal Health

My Lords, I care about international development and the achievement of millennium development goal 5. When I attended the sixth Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership meeting in Brussels recently, I successfully tabled an amendment to the final declaration calling for greater efforts to improve maternal health and to reduce maternal mortality.

I feel that it is pertinent to draw attention to the growing adolescent birth rate. Poverty continues to be a factor in perpetuating that worrying trend, but education also plays a significant role. Research suggests that adolescents who have not had access to any type of formal education are four times more likely to fall pregnant than their peers who have completed secondary school.

Improving maternal health is not only a moral obligation but financially prudent. It has been argued that at least 30 per cent of Asia’s economic growth was due to sustainable improvements in reproductive health. The United Nations Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health suggests that maternal health problems result in losses to productivity of up to $15 billion per annum.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to support the global fund in its work to combat the rise of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the world’s poorest nations. More than 1 million people with tuberculosis are also infected with the HIV virus. Tuberculosis is responsible for the deaths of more than a quarter of people with the HIV/AIDS virus. In 2008, tuberculosis was responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 expectant mothers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

I am also in favour of the coalition Government’s plan to tackle malaria and to reduce maternal fatalities. Malaria kills a child in Africa every 45 seconds. The plans will also ensure that, over the next five years, a minimum of 10 million couples will gain access to education on family planning. Infants and pregnant women are the main victims of malaria-related deaths.

I believe that we have a duty to ensure that lasting progress is made to fulfil millennium development goal 5 by 2015. As a leading nation in the global arena, we must ensure that goal 5-part of the challenging programme that was agreed 15 years ago-results in success.

Health: Cousin Marriage

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to raise awareness of the medical difficulties associated with cousin marriages.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to initiate any dialogue with community leaders about the health risks of cousin marriages.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department continues to support the work of the National Health Service in providing information to all couples at risk of genetic conditions to enable them to make informed choices.

As part of the complementary work to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, the department has published the Implementation Plan for Reducing Health Inequalities in Infant Mortality: A Good Practice Guide, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. The document provides details on how genetic screening and counselling services play an important part in this area. Specifically, it highlights the work of two projects funded by the department on how to provide appropriate genetic services and support to communities that practise cousin marriage.

The department supports the work of NHS initiatives among communities with a higher prevalence of cousin marriage on a number of important issues. This includes initiatives delivered through regional NHS genetic counselling services that work to raise awareness of the risks associated with cousin marriage.

Most couples in consanguineous relationships will have healthy children. Overall the risk of any given couple having a child with a severe genetic condition is still relatively small, estimated at 4 per cent for cousin marriages compared to 2 per cent for unrelated parents.

Health: Cousin Marriage

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to give extra medical support to children born of parents from the same extended family.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage better relations between the medical profession and those groups within society among whom same-cousin marriages are prevalent.

Earl Howe: As with any situation where children need additional health care, an assessment should be made and based on clinical need commissioned by local National Health Service services.

The department has supported development of local services specifically dealing with consanguineous relationships. This includes initiatives delivered through regional NHS genetic counselling services that work to raise awareness of the risks associated with cousin marriage.

Most couples in consanguineous relationships will have healthy children. Overall the risk of any given couple having a child with a severe genetic condition is still relatively small, estimated at 4 per cent for cousin marriages compared to 2 per cent for unrelated parents.

Health: Donor Organs (EUC Report)

My Lords, I have taken a close interest in organ donation for a considerable time and I welcome the report of the European Union Committee. Inevitably, this is a matter of concern to the public and, as highlighted by the committee, is more complex than the simplistic terms in which it is often presented. The last opportunity that we had in this House to consider this issue was earlier this year when the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, introduced the Kidney Transplant Bill.

Undeniably, there is a shortage of organs for transplant in all countries across the European Union. The European Commission’s communication of May 2007, which established a directive to define standards for the quality and safety of organ donation and transplantation across the European Union and an action plan, was, unquestionably, well intentioned. Around 7,500 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the United Kingdom, with almost 400 people each year dying while awaiting treatment. Across Europe, this is estimated at around 40,000 people, which, by any measure, is a large number. Tragically, this includes nearly 100 children each year. These figures do not include those who would ordinarily benefit from the procedures, which would run to many thousands more people. It is apparent that the scale of human suffering caused by the shortage of organs is profound, as many people face pain and ill health while on the waiting list.

The problem is not one of willingness to donate. The number of people willing to donate their organs far exceeds the number who have completed organ donor cards. Notwithstanding that, we donate, per million of the population, only one-third of the number of organs donated in Spain and around half of that in Austria, France, Belgium and the United States. Our donation rate lags well behind the average across the European Union. It is clear that we need to do more, but a system of presumed consent is not the answer.

As a consequence of family refusals, around 40 per cent of those who have an organ donor card do not donate their organs. The context, therefore, for organ donations in this country is a problem, fundamentally, of infrastructure and organisation rather than just a matter of presumed consent. That was the conclusion in the report published in January this year of the Government’s own Organ Donation Task Force. The target of increasing donation rates by 50 per cent in five years is worthy of support and I wish the task force well. Given that the Government accepted the recommendations, I hope that the Minister can provide an early indication of what progress has been made.

I am uncomfortable with the issue of presumed consent. The state does not own our bodies and it should not have the right to take organs after death. Organ donation must be achieved without causing offence or distress to the family of the deceased, and should be established on explicit consent. If we are to make progress, we need to enhance organ retrieval teams in hospitals and appoint more donor liaison nurses in order to improve the alignment between those who express a willingness to donate and those who ultimately provide their organs.

During our debate on the Kidney Transplant Bill, I recorded my concern at the very low level of organ donation among ethnic minority groups across the United Kingdom. Different religions take different approaches to organ donation, but none of the five major religions objects to the principle. More needs to be done to increase the numbers among minority ethnic groups who donate their organs. I should be grateful if the Minister could provide a specific answer to what is happening on this front.

The committee concludes robustly against the sale of organs, and I agree that the trafficking of organs is a major problem, particularly as it often affects the vulnerable and weak in the countries that bear the pain of this hideous behaviour. This is an issue that has a particular currency on the Indian sub-continent.

What impressed me most in the committee’s report was the evidence provided by Dr Rafael Matesanz, who has been responsible for a magnificent achievement in devising and implementing significant improvements in the supply of organ donations in Spain. I salute the expertise that he offered, and how the committee presented his coherent and beneficial evidence. We cannot escape the reality that the retrieval of a donated organ needs to take place within twelve hours of death. It is clear from the report that there is not sufficient infrastructure to enable the retrieval and use of organs to meet demand, even under a system of presumed consent. We do not have the organisation in this country to address the demand for organs, and that will not be resolved by introducing a system of presumed consent.

The European perspective is another area in which I should like to address some remarks. There is limited value in establishing a pan-European organ donation sharing system. In most cases, domestic demand far exceeds supply, and in only a very small number of cases would it be practicable. I agree that there is some advantage in the establishment of a number of minimum common standards, but that is probably the extent of the value-added that we can expect from the European Union in this area. I entirely agree with the committee’s rejection of a pan-European donor card. Given the excess of demand in all European countries, it is hard to imagine where the value-added could be found, let alone the problem of identity, which may restrict people’s engagement on a European level. The Government should do more to encourage people in this country to sign up to become organ donors, but that is unlikely to work across the Union.

In drawing my remarks to a close, I welcome the conclusions of the committee’s report and congratulate noble Lords who have done such thorough work in this important area. I particularly look forward to hearing from the Minister how the Government propose to increase public awareness of and participation in organ donation schemes; what progress we can expect in developing the infrastructure and organisation to cope with the increased supply that we all want to see; and what action they will take to ensure that effort is focused on those ethnic minority groups where at present there is a shortage in participation.

Kidney Transplant Bill

My Lords, the concept of organ transplantation has developed worldwide and, over recent decades, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of organ transplant operations undertaken. The issue of organ donation must register as one of the most important challenges in the area of health policy and delivery. In the United Kingdom, around 7,500 people are waiting for an organ transplant and some 400 people die each year waiting for a transplant, including 100 children. These are frightening statistics and we need to consider how best to try to reduce those numbers.Organ transplants are good and have saved countless lives, including making considerable improvements to the quality of life for many patients. For example, a kidney transplant can release patients from the inconvenience and discomfort of undergoing dialysis for as many as three sessions per week, a process that can take quite a few hours, and, unfortunately, the condition can be life-threatening. It is therefore imperative that we increase the number of donors and achieve that by effective persuasion and setting up suitable mechanisms.In December 2006, the Department of Health established an Organ Donation Taskforce, with the remit of investigating the barriers to donation. I understand that the Government are now in possession of its report and recommendations, which were published on Wednesday. Notwithstanding that, the Minister will want to consider the content and the detail of those recommendations. I hope that this debate will provide a platform for the Government to furnish us with some feedback.There is a contradiction between the language that we use and what is in this Bill. A donor is, by definition, one who chooses to donate. Donation is, by implication, a voluntary act. The Bill seeks to turn volunteers into conscripts and, whether or not that is the underlying purpose of the measure, it is offensive and wrong. People should be encouraged to donate their organs, but the ultimate decision must rest with the individual, and the fundamental presumption must be to respect the human body unless an individual has chosen to make his or her organs available for donation.The debate today focuses on one fundamental point: whether we should work on the basis of explicit consent, under which a donor must specifically authorise the removal of an organ, or presumed consent, under which the onus is on individuals to state explicitly that they do not wish to have an organ removed. I strongly take the view that there is something profoundly wrong with the principle of presumed consent.There is a weakness in the Bill as it refers only to an advance decision known to next of kin. It says nothing about asking the next of kin after death. Furthermore, it will not take long before a suspicion arises that doctors will not do all that they could to save a life, but will allow a death for harvesting purposes. Yesterday, I was informed by a coroner that he was dealing with the death of a young person in a road crash when the deceased’s mother raised this very question before the inquest. We are not, therefore, talking about a theoretical fear.The Bill refers to kidney donation, but we should also consider the potential consequences relating to other organs. Once the principle of presumed consent for kidney donation is established, that may result in pressure to include other body organs. If the Bill is enacted, this will be the thin end of the wedge. It is, therefore, necessary that donation is looked at for all body organs and whatever is agreed must apply to all organs.I chair the Ethnic Diversity Council of the Conservative Party and I respect the beliefs and principles of all religions. The British population is now made up of people of different religions. I would like to explore, for a few moments, the cultural side of this debate. To my knowledge, the five major faiths in the United Kingdom do not object to the principle of organ donation. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have all endorsed organ donation and transplantation. That is not to say that there is not a lively debate within particular groups, but it might be helpful if a more robust lead were demonstrated by religious leaders so that ambiguities that might exist within their particular faith were cleared up.My understanding is as follows. A Christian who chooses to donate an organ is following the example set by Jesus of demonstrating love. Sacrifice and helping others form a key part of Christianity and, in the Bible, Christians are invited by St Matthew to “freely give”. Jews are required to obtain consent from a competent rabbinic authority before any organ donation procedure can commence, but nothing in principle in Judaism conflicts with organ donation in order to save lives. Jewish law prevents the unnecessary interference with the body after death and requires immediate burial of the complete body. In Islam, violating the human body is normally forbidden, but it is permitted to save another person’s life. Indeed, the Holy Koran states in chapter five that,“whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind”.“Daan” is a word in Sanskrit for donation, which means selflessly giving to a Hindu. That is the third of the 10 niyamas, which are virtuous acts of the faith. Actions that sustain life are accepted and promoted as dharma, which means righteous living. Hindus believe that the soul is invisible, and that it is wrong to grieve for the body. A key feature of Sikhism is the requirement to put the needs of others ahead of one’s own requirements. As with most of the other religions, the soul of an individual is separate from the physical body, and Guru Nanak taught, in the Guru Granth Sahib, that:“The dead sustain their bond with the living through virtuous deeds”.I recognise that there is work to be done in persuading more people to donate their organs. The Chief Medical Officer’s annual report in 2006 quotes surveys showing that around 70 per cent of the population favour the principle of donating their organs after death, but only 20 per cent of people are on the NHS organ donor register.The best way to combat what can be described as a transplant crisis is a robust, proactive and continuous programme encouraging more people to be donors. This programme needs to be adequately resourced by provision of funding and staffing, and in all other ways. We should encourage more people to be donors of various organs and suggest that the matter be discussed by the potential donors with immediate relatives. About 40 per cent of families refuse consent for organ donation even where the individual has offered their organ as a donor. In addition, we must enhance and resource organ retrieval and transplant teams who are available at all times and appoint more donor liaison officers. These people need to be adequately trained to handle sensitive issues suitably.I have just returned from the Indian sub-continent, and of interest at all margins of this debate is the issue of westerners travelling abroad to obtain organ donations and the practice of purchasing organs for transplant. There are abuses relating to this practice and I have heard a number of horror stories. I find organ trafficking repugnant, and tackling the problem of scarce supply may reduce the demand for this abhorrent practice. I repeat, however, that using the strong arm of the state and the force of statute to achieve more transplants is not acceptable. I urge the House to reject the Bill.