Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, has received an award from Brake for her work to raise awareness of sleep apnoea, a condition that puts drivers at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Sleep apnoea disrupts sleep by causing the airways to repeatedly close, forcing the sufferer to wake up and gasp for breath, causing acute tiredness. Brake says that the condition is thought to affect 1.5 million people in the UK and, while it is treatable, is often not recognised as sufferers don’t recall what’s causing them to wake up.
Brake says that sufferers are up to seven times more likely to have road collisions, and that crashes caused by driver tiredness are thought to kill at least 300 people on UK roads every year.
Julie Hilling first became aware of sleep apnoea in early 2011, as a member of the Transport Select Committee. She subsequently discovered that her constituency, Bolton West, has particularly high rates of sleep apnoea and since then has worked to raise awareness of the issue in Parliament.
In September 2014, she secured an adjournment debate on sleep apnoea in Parliament, during which she called for the Department of Health to appoint a body to improve services for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnoea. As a result of the debate, health minister Norman Lamb MP will be taking up the issue of sleep apnoea to see how the Government can improve its diagnosis and care.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Sleep apnoea is a huge issue for road safety, so we are pleased to give Julie this award for campaigning so persistently to improve its diagnosis and care.
“Hundreds of thousands of people may be unwittingly putting themselves and others at great risk on UK roads by driving with undiagnosed sleep apnoea – a condition that can be treated.”
Julie Hilling said: "Sleep apnoea is a major problem for many of my constituents, causing many serious health issues and contributing to many road crashes. I will continue to work with Brake to ensure we get the services we need to help sleep apnoea suffers."