YESTERDAY, along with my colleague Kerry McCarthy MP, I attended a meeting between Jeremy Hunt – the Secretary of State for Health – and the family of Layla Rose Ermenekli from Limeside in Oldham. The meeting was called to discuss the Government’s failure to provide Meningitis vaccine to all children.
Layla Rose was just 6 years old when she contracted Meningitis and later died in hospital.
There were failings by the Royal Oldham Hospital, who failed to spot important signs of Meningitis, and they will be addressed, but fundamentally Layla Rose would be alive today had she received the MenB vaccination.
The meeting came about after I asked the Prime Minister in October why her Government has failed to provide the vaccine universally to all children. Layla’s case is not the only one. We were joined by two other families of teenagers – both from the same college – who had contracted and died of Meningitis. Like Layla, prevention was not enough to save their lives and hospital staff could little to help. And these cases are just the tip of the iceberg.
Many more of died, and many are at risk. The answer to keeping our children safe therefore lies in the Government funding a full vaccination programme which covers all age ranges.
At the meeting Jeremy Hunt apologised to the families present on behalf of the Government, saying “we have let you down”. And there were promising signs that the Secretary of State is taking this issue to heart. Clearly moved by the stories from the families, he promised to resource a working group to explore better awareness of the existing vaccine, prevention and detection of Men B, and also to look again at the evidence of full roll-out of the vaccine.
However he stopped short of any sort of commitment to extending the vaccination programme, citing a shortage of money in the NHS coupled with competing priorities for treatment across a wide range of areas – for example, cancer treatment.
So the meeting was a step forward towards justice for Layla and other children like her. But there is much more work to be done on this, and we want put down tools until we know that all children are safe from Meningitis.
The working group will be convened in the New Year, and I’ll be providing updates on our work.
I’d like to thank the Secretary of State for taking the time to meet with Layla’s family, and the charities Meningitis Now and Meningitis Research.