Ex-broadcaster Paxman hands Parkinson’s wish list to UK PM

The Parky Charter

To mark World Parkinson’s Day, former broadcaster Jeremy Paxman has delivered a list of recommendations for improving how the disease is managed in the UK to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Paxman (73) handed a box containing the ‘Parky Charter’ in at No. 10 Downing Street, telling the Press Association that Parkinson’s “may not kill you, but it will make you wish you hadn’t been born.” He was joined by co-hosts of the Movers and Shakers podcast about life with the disease.

Jeremy Paxman
Jeremy Paxman

Now retired, Paxman had a long and illustrious career as a journalist, broadcaster, and author and hosted the TV quiz show University Challenge for 28 years before stepping down in 2022, a year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The Parky Charter makes five recommendations, headed by speedy access to specialists for individuals with Parkinson’s under the NHS. An appointment should be available with a neurologist or geriatrician within 18 weeks, it says, and after diagnosis there should be no longer than a year between neurological appointments.

Better information should be made available to patients, including a pamphlet on first diagnosis but also additional advice that is “relevant, personal, and local,” says the charter. It also called for a Parkinson’s passport granting automatic entitlement to certain benefits such as free prescriptions and a ‘blue badge’ for disabled parking access.

Each patient should also get a personalised and comprehensive care plan ensuring regular meetings with a Parkinson’s nurse and other healthcare specialists, such as physiotherapists, nutritionists, and speech therapists, and there should be a major increase in government funding of R&D into the disease from a current level of about £6.7 million ($8.4 million), says the charter.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the proposals would “rightfully receive the attention they deserve,” but Paxman told the PA that he is sceptical that things will change despite the high-profile campaign.

“The fact that they have ignored all their responsibilities to date indicates to me that they’re not going to get any better,” he remarked, adding: “I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere. You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.”

The Movers and Shakers podcast also features BBC journalists Rory Cellan-Jones, Mark Mardell, and Gillian Lacey-Solymar, as well as eminent barrister Sir Nick Mostyn and Paul Mayhew-Archer, a writer, producer, script editor, and actor best known for co-authoring The Vicar of Dibley comedy.