Genetic Haemochromatosis

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 3rd July 2019.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Public Health) 5:18 pm, 3rd July 2019

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I thank Mark Pawsey for securing this important debate, and for his excellent and detailed speech, which set the scene. I congratulate him on establishing the all-party parliamentary group on genetic haemochromatosis earlier this year. I have set up a number of all-party parliamentary groups and am a big believer in them. I know how important they are in getting things gone, cross-party, in this House. I am pleased that he was able to bring the condition to the House’s attention.

I thank all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate—in particular my hon. Friend Liz McInnes and the hon. Members for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), for Ceredigion (Ben Lake), and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands)—as well as my hon. Friends who made helpful interventions.

As we have heard, GH is a genetic disorder that causes the body to absorb excessive amounts of iron from the diet. Iron overload occurs in one in every 200 people and is now recognised as the most common genetic disorder. Although GH cannot be prevented, its symptoms and health implications can. When untreated, GH can cause serious health problems, including fatigue, weight loss, irregular periods, type 2 diabetes, early menopause and depression.

GH was previously thought to be a low-level health risk, but a study by the University of Exeter found that the genetic condition usually quadruples the risk of liver disease and doubles the risk of arthritis and frailty in older age groups. As hon. Members have already said, treatment of those conditions comes at a huge cost to the NHS, so it is important to ensure that symptoms are prevented by diagnosing GH early and advising on how to avoid iron overload.