I hummed and hawed about this post and how to write it and what to write. I don’t think I have ever started and restarted a blog post so many times trying to find the right was to express my thoughts.
“Asthma charity may quit Scotland in London office switch”. That was the heading of a front page article in The Herald on the 23rd July 2015. As it turns out the article was speculating and making suggestion that the Asthma UK office in Scotland may be closed and those with asthma in Scotland would no longer have someone in Scotland ensuring that asthma is recognised and on the agenda not only for the NHS but also for the government.
As it turns out the article is effectively a lie. The suggestion that Asthma UK is considering shutting its Scotland office is false. The decision has been made- they are shutting the office. For me personally I am devastated hearing this news. Not only am I devastated but I am also angry. Asthma UK Scotland has had such a big part of my life and helped me so much particularly recently when I struggled to come to terms with just what my asthma was like and how it was effecting my life. The people in the office made so many opportunities possible for me. If it was not for the invitation to the launch of AUKCAR by one man my life would be really different. I would not have the understanding about asthma, the knowledge of research and the research process but more importantly I would never have met the individuals who really want to make a difference to the lives of people with asthma like me.
I really am saddened at the loss of a great bunch of people who were such an integral part of asthma in Scotland. There will be a big hole left. I know so many will be feeling such a wide range of emotions- I have gone from saddened, to anger, to a sense of grief and fear. Why fear- I am scared that asthma in Scotland will be forgotten. It is such a big part of the lives of so many and the Asthma UK Scotland office kept asthma on the agenda and made sure that the health service, the scottish parliament and anyone else who could influence change were always aware of the devastation asthma is causing where is really should not be. Asthma shouldn’t kill, it shouldn’t hospitalise so many and it shouldn’t dictate peoples lives.
I am fortunate that I am surrounded by people who care about asthma and want to help people with asthma. I am part of AUKCAR and being part of that I can see first hand the research that is taking place to make developments but I am in a very special position. Before being part of AUKCAR I looked to Asthma UK Scotland and relied on them for advocating for us. It worries me that despite the newspaper article saying the offices in London will look after us in Scotland I sadly won’t believe it till I see it. Having felt let down by them before I have in the back of my head that this will happen again.
When was I let down?? I always used to help out at events in Scotland particularly those in Edinburgh. I would be part of the cheer team during the half and full marathon. I cheered runners on as they raised vital money for asthma research and support for those with asthma. I ran the half marathon for Asthma UK in Edinburgh. I was looking forward to the event. I was also looking forward to see those from Asthma UK support their runners like they had before. Water station after water station I kept looking for the distinct lime green and purple but never saw it. There were many other charities lining the streets but Asthma UK was missing. I did not let this phase me but I was pretty upset that after all the times I have turned out to help they were not there when I ran. I asked why and was told that they don’t get a lot of support in Scotland and not many people taking part in events so it was not beneficial for them to send a support team. I volunteered several times to hold a cheer station and would attend different events for the runners raising money for Asthma UK but events were all run and organised by the London office. It appeared to me they were not interested as I never had much response at all from London. I would have thought they would jump at the chance for people volunteering to do something. It is not like they had no runners either. There was a huge number and I would see a lot of Asthma UK running vests who could have done with support. This previous experience as trivial as it may be has given me a predetermined expectation of what support Scotland will get.
One of the vital things we have here in Scotland and more importantly Edinburgh is we have the opportunity to attend cross party group meetings for Asthma where politicians will actually listen to asthma and lobby parliament for things and make sure asthma is not forgotten.
It is with a really heavy heart I say goodbye to Gordon and Karen (and Shona also). You will be missed a lot. You have done so much for people with asthma in Scotland. You have our support and I hope whatever you do next you continue the fantastic job you have done for us here in Scotland (even if we do stress you out etc!!).
Im left with a lot of different thoughts and decisions on ideas I have personally for asthma in Scotland. A few are: Will the cross party groups continue or how can we sustain them? Is there a benefit to set up my own charity for those with asthma in Scotland? Will Scotland become a forgotten entity much like the forgotten generation?
I realise this is a very one-sided opinion and view. I know it is not only Scotland that is going to suffer but Scotland is important to me and I am sure those in Wales will feel the same about Wales.
I found this so difficult to write mainly because I am so aware of my role in the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research which I love and therefore have to work with Asthma UK but I also feel deeply let down by them and need to express how I feel as I am sure (in fact I know) I am not alone in my feelings and thoughts. Only time will tell and I hope Asthma UK prove me wrong and support Scotland just as the Scotland office has done on so many occasions individually but also for all with asthma in Scotland.