Every year, over a three week period in September and October, the main political parties host their annual conferences. These major political events see politicians, policy advisors, activists and party members from each party come together to debate and vote on party policies and hear keynote speeches from party leaders, ministers and spokespeople. These conferences are well attended by politicians and those who wish to influence them, such as charities, businesses, and journalists.
This year Asthma UK’s External Affairs team and Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Samantha Walker, attended the Labour party conference in Liverpool and the Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Both conferences were very energetic and we were there in full force to talk about asthma and the need for greater research funding. Throughout our time there we met with politicians and other organisations to highlight our recent work to identify the most promising areas of research that can deliver breakthroughs for people with asthma, whilst creating the research environment necessary in the UK to drive improvements in asthma care and investment in asthma research.
During the Conservative conference we met privately with two Department of Health Ministers; David Mowat MP, Minister for Health and Social Care, and Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation. Both ministers were keen to discuss our new report, Connected Asthma, which outlines a variety of technologies in development, such as smart inhalers that track medications use in real time, and barriers that need to be addressed to bring these technologies through in the UK. Both Ministers are keen to work with us to explore how we can bring these technologies to people with asthma sooner.
Our attendance at conference has raised the seriousness of asthma amongst MPs and ministers and sparked agreement from politicians of both parties that more needs to be done to maintain the UK’s role as world leader in asthma research and development.
Author: Derry Begho, Asthma UK’s External Affairs Officer