Parliament – that is it’s precincts, not those who sit within it – was not designed with the visitor in mind. And, 200 years on from its construction, it has not quite shaken off the perception that it would rather not have to deal with the public. Even the new visitor refreshment area built within the security cordon has that air of a desert mirage.
Yesterday our Chair, Lord Willis, had an informal meeting with our 20 or so smaller charity research funders. A fasincating discussion ensued about the economics of the sector and the sustainability of charities in the current climate, the Health and Social Care Bill, and the growing importance of Europe in terms of building scientific collaborations and campaigning unions.
Shame that when it came to lunch in this off-site part of the Palace of Westminster we were told that, while we could order sandwiches etc from the House of Lords refreshment department, they would not deliver it for Health and Safety Reasons. Presumably because someone had to cross the road. So my valiant colleague struggled, nay, braved the pedestrian crossing and cars clearly intent on running her down, to wheel a trolley of coffee and sandwiches backwards and forwards.
I bet those who attended the ‘kitchen cabinet’ (shouldn’t it be called a ‘medicines cabinet’ in this instance?) meeting with David Cameron’s new health advisor, Paul Bate, at No10 didn’t have to wheel their own food in or out that’s for sure.
The meeting caused a small cuffuffle in the media yesterday with suggestions that the Secretary of State for Health was being sidelined. Personally, I disagree. These sorts of meetings go on all the time in every sector and I was actually rather pleased that No.10 was making such a move at a pivotal moment in the NHS’ history.
I haven’t seen the full list of those who attended the meeting so I might be wide of the mark in my criticism that the one disappointment seemed to be the lack of a patient voice in the room. Mark Davies from charity ‘Rethink’ wrote in The Guardian’s JoePublic blog earlier this week, about the dangers of losing sight of the patient in the design of these reforms.
Indeed, amidst all the cuffuffle and coffee, the rest of us are wandering aimlessly with our trolleys.