Former Phones 4U chief John Caudwell has today pledged ‘significant funds’ towards a government-backed programme of Lyme Disease research. In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Caudwell said he hoped his pledge would ‘act as a catalyst’ and ‘instigate the urgently needed action that successive governments have repeatedly failed to take’.
Speaking on the announcement, he said ‘my pledge today aims to end the apathy and give Jeremy Hunt no more excuses for failing to take the action required to help Lyme Disease victims’. He went on to say how despite his pledge, ultimately it was ‘the duty and responsibility of the government to deliver this desperately needed research’.
He continued by saying how Lyme victims had been ‘abandoned by their health service’ describing how the situation ‘in modern day Britain is utterly appalling’. In Caudwell’s view, ‘successive governments have woefully under-resourced research into this destructive disease’.
The billionaire is one of the highest profile victims of Lyme Disease, which also includes former English rugby star Matt Dawson. In 2015, he revealed how almost all members of his immediate family had been diagnosed with the disease. Since then he founded the charity Caudwell LymeCo, which campaigns for more effective research into the illness.
In April of this year, NICE published their updated Lyme Disease guidelines, which call for more research into the disease. Since then, however, there has been little indication from the government of next steps. Mr Caudwell’s letter to Jeremy Hunt described the guidelines as ‘a step in the right direction’ but that there‘must be no more excuses for failing to fund Lyme Disease research’.
The disease can bring with it a range of symptoms, affective each victim differently. These symptoms can include chronic fatigue, neurological problems, muscle wasting and irregular heartbeat. Despite this, Caudwell charged the Department of Health with ‘apathy’ regarding their failure to improve ‘the NHS’ woeful lack of understanding of Lyme Disease’. As a result, his letter said there were ‘people suffering immensely and being denied the care they need’.
It is currently unknown how many people in the UK suffer from Lyme Disease, but Caudwell has previously expressed his belief that it could be ‘thousands’. In January, UCL’s EPPI Centre produced research which said the UK lacked a reliable diagnostic test for the disease, also describing a ‘lack of awareness’ amongst the medical profession.
Last month, drugs company Valneva announced the successful completion of the first human trials of a Lyme Disease vaccine. It is believed that the new immunisation could be up to 96% effective. That announcement came as new data showed that the tick that carries the disease has been found in twice as many areas of the UK as a decade ago.
Caudwell is clear, however, that until the government ‘takes the lead’ and ‘delivers this desperately needed research’ victims will continue to suffer. In the Hunt letter, he says of his pledge ‘I am aware that I can do more’.
Last week the government announced a major increase in the health service budget, through a so called ‘Brexit dividend’. It is unclear where exactly that money will be spent, however Caudwell will be hoping some it is allocated to Lyme Disease, to ensure, as he puts it ‘patients receive the care they have been cruelly denied for so long’.