The launch of the #MSPSupport4CRY campaign in the Scottish Parliament occurred recently, championed by the friends and family of former political aide, David Hill from Dumfriesshire, who tragically died from a previously undiagnosed heart condition last year (19 March 2022).
David collapsed whilst playing a cross-party rugby match for Holyrood against Dail and Seanad XV at the Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin as part of the Parliamentary Six Nations. He was aged just 30.
Huge awareness has been harnessed in the 19 months since David’s sudden death – as well as over £36,000 raised in his memory – but this latest initiative is taking campaigning to a new level with 56 MSPs, including the First Minister, Humza Yousaf (pictured) and Leaders of the main opposition parties already agreeing to support the ‘parliamentary pledge’ which was established by the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox; comments; “Every week in the UK 12 fit and healthy young people aged 35 and under are dying suddenly from undiagnosed cardiac conditions. This campaign to establish a National Strategy for the Prevention of Young Sudden Cardiac Deaths was first launched with MPs to highlight that much more needs to be done to prevent young sudden deaths. We’ve had tremendous cross-party support which is an acknowledgement of the incredible efforts of all the people raising awareness of what has happened to their family and what could have been done to prevent their loss.
“By launching this campaign in Scottish Parliament MSPs are being given an opportunity to show their support and recognition that more needs to be done to save young lives. Many families have fought hard to raise awareness of young sudden cardiac death and bring heart screening to communities throughout Scotland, testing thousands of young people.
“Since David’s death, his family, friends and former colleagues have gone to great lengths to raise awareness within the Scottish Parliament and it is fantastic that such an impressive number of MSPs agreed to support the campaign last Thursday. The support they were able to garner in such a relatively short session in Holyrood is testament to the powerful impact they made that day, as well as the legacy David left and the high regard in which he was clearly held by his colleagues.”
The event was spearheaded by David’s friend and colleague, Oliver Mundell MSP for Dumfriesshire, who arranged for a small group of David’s family to take up a prime position at the foot of the main staircase of the Garden Lobby.
David’s parents, Sharon (Duncan), who’d worked particularly closely with Oliver to make this event possible, and Rodger (Hill) held up large signs bearing the words “MSPSupport4CRY: I pledge to help save young lives”, providing passing MSPs with the opportunity to listen and learn more about the campaign.
Oliver had rallied much support prior to event amongst MSPs and ‘staffers’ who’d known and loved David during his time at Holyrood – but the strategic location in a main thoroughfare meant that others who perhaps weren’t already aware of CRY’s work didn’t miss out on the chance to stop to chat and to pledge their support. He said; “I have tremendous respect for Sharon, Rodger and the whole family for their ability to build on David’s legacy by campaigning for political action to ensure other young people don’t die needlessly.
“It was an honour to host them at Holyrood and I am delighted they have managed to sign up nearly half of all MSPs to a new CRY Pledge in a single day. I look forward now to working with them to see a new strategy put in place to deliver change and help save young lives.”
In a joint statement on behalf of David’s family, Sharon and Rodger added; “We are all so delighted and encouraged by the level of support we saw at our official launch of the MSPSupport4CRY campaign but really believe that this is just the beginning. We’re confident that after such a positive start, interest from across all political parties will continue to grow and that we’ll be able to make real headway in developing a strategy for the prevention of young sudden cardiac death, not least in influencing the decision-making process around our mission of securing a national cardiac screening programme.
“We were blown away by the number of MSPs who signed up to the pledge last week and we’re now focused on hitting the 100 mark – and, ideally, we’re aiming for the day when all 129 MSPs will have backed our campaign with CRY.”
Earlier this year (11 March) the inaugural David Hill Memorial Quaich fixture (part of the David Hill Memorial Fund*) took place at Peffermill in Edinburgh, with Members of Parliament from both respective nations playing.
Originally from Dumfriesshire, David worked for several MSPs during his time at Holyrood and at the time of his death he had been working for Jamie Greene MSP (pictured, showing his support for the MSP pledge). David’s popularity and hardworking reputation led to him being posthumously named Parliamentary Staffer of the Year in September 2022 at the Holyrood Magazine Awards.
CRY also funds pioneering research into the conditions that can cause young sudden cardiac death as well as providing a unique bereavement support network for all families who have been affected. CRY’s screening programme currently tests over 25,000 young people (aged 14-35) every year in the UK (and has screened over 275,000 young people in total, to date).
Although heart screening won’t identify all young people at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, they have reduced the incidence of young sudden cardiac death by 89%. This is because sport – whilst it does not actually cause sudden cardiac death – can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition.
Dr Cox concludes; “Once politicians start to take young sudden cardiac death seriously we will start to move towards a time when every young person will have the opportunity to have their heart tested. The whole of the UK needs a comprehensive approach to stop these deaths. We need a national strategy to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths and it’s wonderful to see that there is already so much political support Scotland.”
For those who would like to contact their MSP to support this campaign go to www.c-r-y.org.uk/my-pledge-msp/ for more information.