Jeremy Paxman has said Parkinson’s disease “makes you wish you hadn’t been born” as he delivered a list of recommendations about the condition to Downing Street.

The former University Challenge and Newsnight presenter and fellow members of the Movers and Shakers podcast – which discusses the challenges of living with the disease – marked World Parkinson’s Day by presenting the “Parky Charter” and a petition with tens of thousands of names to No 10 on Thursday.

Paxman, 73, criticised the government’s response to the disease after delivering the charter, which has five key recommendations: swift access to specialists under the NHS; the introduction of a Parkinson’s UK pamphlet for enhanced awareness and support; the implementation of a Parkinson’s passport granting automatic entitlement to specific benefits; improved comprehensive care, including regular consultations with a Parkinson’s nurse; and increased government funding for research for a cure.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, praised the charter, saying he is “very supportive of the excellent work that the Movers and Shakers do and the charter will rightfully receive the attention it deserves”.

However, Paxman said he believes the charter and petition will have “no effect whatsoever” on the government.

He told the PA Media news agency: “The fact that they (the government) have ignored all their responsibilities to date indicates to me that they’re not going to get any better. And I suspect that the form of words devised by the Ministry of Health will confirm that.

“I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere. You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.”

One in 37 people in the UK will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime, according to the charity Parkinson’s UK.

In the UK, about 153,000 people are living with the neurological condition.

Paxman also expressed his frustration with the public’s treatment of people with Parkinson’s. The Leeds-born broadcaster said: “You want to say, get the fuck out of the way, that’s what you want to say.”

In May 2021, the former BBC presenter announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and stepped down as the host of University Challenge.

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Paxman, who began his broadcasting career on the BBC’s graduate trainee programme in 1972, added: “(Parkinson’s) may not kill you but it will make you wish you hadn’t been born. There’s nothing in it for the drug companies, it’s just more money for them.”

Movers and Shakers began in February 2023 and also features former BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones, the broadcaster’s former Europe and North America editor Mark Mardell, correspondent Gillian Lacey-Solymar, the late Diana, Princess of Wales’s divorce barrister Sir Nick Mostyn, and Vicar of Dibley co-writer Paul Mayhew-Archer.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want a society where every person with a neurological disease, along with their families and carers, receives high-quality, compassionate care – and having a better understanding of diseases like Parkinson’s is vital in making sure we can provide the right care at the right time.

“That’s why we committed to spend at least £375m in research into
neurodegenerative diseases over five years, so that we can better understand these conditions and improve outcomes for patients.”

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