Polio is not a disease of the past. It still affects 120,000 people in the UK and for 80% of them life is set to get a whole lot harder as Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) looms. Yet according to The British Polio Fellowship a staggering lack of awareness amongst medical professionals means Polio survivors in the UK are not getting the treatment that they need for PPS. On Wednesday 22 October the charity took their message to the heart of Westminster and at a special event organised by Andy Love MP they explained the situation to around 90 senior health officials, MPs and delegates, who were left under no illusions about the scale of the health challenge posed by PPS.
(Left to Right) Ted Hill, Andy Love MP, Bryan Rowley, Robin Luff and Julia Roberts
“The scale of this problem is enormous and it is a disgrace that so little is being done to tackle it,” said Andy Love MP, “PPS is a problem on the same scale as spinal injuries and Parkinson’s and yet it does not receive anything like the same level of attention from the medical profession. This must change and I believe that the awareness raised today will help to do that.”
Dr Robin Luff is the chair of The British Polio Fellowship’s panel of experts on PPS and he was very clear about the need for greater awareness about PPS, particularly amongst medical professionals:
“69% of GPs say that they would not feel confident in diagnosing somebody with PPS. GPs are the main link that people have with the medical profession and if they are not confident in diagnosing a problem that will affect 80% of Polio survivors then we have a very serious problem on our hands. If this problem is not addressed then I fear that thousands of people suffering the very painful effects of PPS will do so undiagnosed and not receiving treatment that could relieve their suffering.”
Polio survivors face life with a range of symptoms including poor circulation, wasted limbs, paralysis and severe mobility issues. These symptoms are made much worse by PPS which develops in later life in people who have had Polio, sometimes decades after they initially contracted the disease. It is believed that 80% of people who have had Polio will go on to develop PPS.
The British Polio Fellowship has been supporting Polio survivors for the last 75 years and CEO Ted Hill MBE believes that PPS represents one of the greatest challenges the charity has ever faced: “60 years ago Britain was in crisis as a Polio epidemic swept the nation. Thankfully vaccines have ended the problem of new cases in Britain but that does not mean Polio no longer affects people here and that gets forgotten all too often. Those people who contracted Polio have had a lifetime coping with its affects and they are still here! It is our duty to support these people as PPS strikes them another cruel blow in later life.
“Health officials and MPs have got to take note and take action now and come up with a national strategy for dealing with PPS – they cannot ignore it any longer,” concluded Ted.
The British Polio Fellowship aims to support, help and empower Polio survivors in daily life and help them face the challenges brought on by PPS. If you would like more information or would like to join The British Polio Fellowship then please visit www.britishpolio.org or call 0800 043 1935.