Two RAF heroes have walked 164 miles to Downing Street with a petition demanding free prescriptions for patients with rare genetic diseases.
Squadron Leader Nick Smith, 39, whose two-year-old daughter Charlotte has cystic fibrosis, set out from Wolverhampton to completed the five-day Trek For Charlie with friend Squadron Leader Liam Summerfield, 41.
The pair, who have raised more than £9,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said they faced physical and mental barriers completing the hike in 30C heat – but that it was worth it.
Nick, based at RAF Shawbury, Shrops, said: “I certainly hit some tough moments on the walk. We had trained for it but never expected to do it in a heatwave. I remember on Thursday, we had already done 12 miles that day but the heat was unbearable. I wasn’t sure I could go on.
“Liam was brilliant and kept pushing me on. Each day we had to get into a rhythm to keep going, playing games like name football teams from A to Z. Our feet were so sore each step felt like we were walking on broken glass.
“And whenever I was at my lowest ebb I would think about my Charlie and tell myself to keep moving as I’m doing this to help her future, and all the others with this cruel condition.”
Liam added: “I’ve done a few challenges before for charity, so knew I could probably handle this but I must admit it tested my endurance massively.
“I loved it but it was really tough and I knew deep down I wanted to make damn sure Nick made it and just be there steady alongside him. The fact it was for such a great cause added to the sense of victory and achievement.”
In March, the Daily Express joined the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as it handed Rishi Sunak some 1,300 signed NHS prescriptions, asking that he finally makes CF sufferers exempt from paying for them.
In 1968, chronic illnesses like diabetes and epilepsy were included in a list of conditions warranting free prescriptions, a list never updated in the 55 years since. Many genetic diseases like CF were missed out.
Nick and Liam were joined by the Express on Saturday to hand over the petition, along with Charlotte, Nick’s wife Amber, 29, Liam’s wife Louise, 39, and their daughter India. Our Cystic Fibrosis Crusade has long called for better measures.
The Department of Health said: “Around 89 percent of prescriptions are free on the NHS in England.
“Patients with long-term conditions or on a low income can apply for prescription charge exemptions or additional support through the NHS Low Income Scheme and can also buy pre-payment certificates for just over £2 per week.”