Authors: Mark Tami MP
Our editor, Jade Parker, recently spoke with Mark Tami MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Stem Cell Transplantation. In this interview you can find out more about the work the APPG does in projects such as the Defend Second Transplants campaign and how Mark and his team are looking to diversify the stem cell donor register to ensure that charities such as Anthony Nolan can provide the best donor match to individuals with blood cancer.
Could you tell us about your involvement in the APPG for Stem Cell Transplantation?
I have been chair of the APPG on Stem Cell Transplantation for a number of years. Until the recent general election, this was as a co-chair with a former colleague, David Burrowes. I became involved in the group after my son received a stem cell transplant many years ago and I have been working to support the needs of stem cell transplant patients through the group ever since. I have been delighted to see how the profile of the register has increased over the years and how attitudes to the importance of signing up have shifted in young people over that time.
The benefit of having an APPG is that it can provide an excellent platform for raising issues of importance on behalf of patients with Ministers and civil servants. With the support of Parliamentary colleagues from across all the political parties, the impact of such a group on patients’ lives can be significant.
In your opinion, what has been the biggest success for the group over the last year?
In 2016, the APPG became aware of a decision by NHS England that removed funding for second stem cell transplants for patients with relapsed disease. For these patients, a second stem cell transplant is often their last chance of survival. As Parliamentarians, the APPG sought, on behalf of patients, to seek clarification from NHS England on the decision. We did this by asking a range of Parliamentary Questions to the Minister responsible, we held meetings on the issue and invited clinicians, patients and NHS England to discuss it with us. Following this activity and a public campaign led by Anthony Nolan, NHS England overturned their decision in February 2016. This means that up to 20 patients a year can now access the treatment that could save their lives.
You have previously spoken about the need to improve the donor register so that every patient gets the best transplant match. Could you tell us a bit about the current status of the register (how likely a patient will get the best match)?