As many of you here know, the National Osteoporosis Society is a charity which is very close to my heart. I became involved with it in 1994 after watching my mother stoically suffering the appalling pain and ignominy of this devastating disease, which in the end resulted in her early death at the age of 72.
Back in those dark old days my family was not alone in knowing next to nothing about osteoporosis. It was rarely discussed, seldom diagnosed and usually attributed to women of a certain age. I was determined, for my mother's sake, to find out more and to find a way of helping others avoid the same excruciating pain and disregard that she, and many of her generation, had encountered. This led me to the door of a small, but perfectly formed, charity… the National Osteoporosis Society.
It has been a tremendous honour to support this remarkable charity and its work, firstly as its Patron and then as its President. Huge strides have been made in the diagnosis, treatment and research of osteoporosis and, thanks to the NOS and its wonderful volunteers, people do, at last, know about it; they are now more aware of the risks and they do understand that good diet and exercise (walking in particular) are vital for healthy bones.
It is not for me to summarise the life-changing medical research which has altered the landscape over the last thirty years. But I am happy to say that osteoporosis is no longer thought to be an inevitable consequence of ageing. Some of the changes the NOS has championed and supported, such as DXA scanning and the Fracture Liason Service, have already made an enormous difference to early diagnosis.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, we still have a long way to go. It is estimated that about 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis. 1 out of 2 women over the age of 50 will break a bone as a result of it and I'm sorry to say that men don't get away with it either: 1 out of 5 of them will suffer a fracture too. It actually costs NHS hospitals a staggering five million pounds a day in hip fractures alone.
Before you disappear today I would like to thank all the loyal friends of the NOS, who have fruitfully nurtured its work by giving their time, their experience and their financial support over the last thirty years and I can only hope and pray that, with your help, the next thirty years will find a cure for osteoporosis, so that future generations will be spared its ravages.