Backing for meningitis awareness campaign

Avril and Neil Bartley-Smith, of Kettering, with Corby and East Northants MP Andy Sawford
Avril and Neil Bartley-Smith, of Kettering, with Corby and East Northants MP Andy Sawford

MP for Corby and East Northants Andy Sawford is backing the Meningitis Research Foundation’s awareness campaign to ensure it remains a top public health priority while the current NHS reforms are implemented.

Meningitis is still a serious and life-threatening disease, affecting around 3,400 people in the UK each year, with infants and young people most at risk.

The campaign, Meningitis Matters, aims to raise awareness of the disease and ensure that the changes imposed by the new Health and Social Care Act 2012 do not have a destabilising effect on research, surveillance and immunisation rates.

Mr Sawford met Avril and Neil Bartley-Smith, of Kettering, whose son Simon contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 1999, when he was 11, to discuss their personal experience of the disease.

Mrs Bartley-Smith said: “When my son Simon fell ill I called the Meningitis Research Foundation helpline and was advised to get help quickly.

“Our neighbour, a GP, acted instantly and injected him with antibiotics. Kettering General accident and emergency crash team were on standby when we arrived as meningococcal septicaemia was developing rapidly.

“He spent five days on a life support system but had a happy ending. He survived and leads a normal, very active life.

“I am backing the Meningitis Matters campaign to make sure that meningitis does remain a high priority during the NHS reforms and to ensure that all children are protected against all forms of the disease.”

Along with other MPs, Mr Sawford has signed a pledge calling on the Government to introduce new meningitis vaccines as soon as readily available. Many deadly strains of meningitis remain uncontrolled, and vaccination is still the most effective way to prevent and control it.

He said: “Meningitis hasn’t gone away. It still kills far too many children and leaves many more with life-long disabilities. Although real progress has been made over the last decade, more needs to be done. Meningitis and septicaemia are terrible diseases which are vaccine preventable and no child should be dying from them in today’s world.”

Meningitis Matters is calling on the Government to introduce new vaccines which prevent meningitis onto the national immunisation schedule as soon as they become available, to raise awareness of the need for vaccination and to provide good quality aftercare for those left with disabilities and debilitating after effects.