I was very sad to hear of the death of Lord Swinfen. I knew him, though not well. The media tend to focus on members of either House who misbehave. The generally neglect those who do good work. Lord Swinfen was something of an unsung hero.
He undertook significant work in the disability sector, but his most remarkable achievement was establishing, with his wife, a web-based confidential messaging system, Telemedicine, enabling specialist consultants to be reached from countries from around the world, especially some of the poorest countries. At the time of his death, there were 500 specialist consultants, working without pay, servicing health providers in 96 countries, some of the consultants having been recruited by the Swinfens at medical conferences or by word of mouth.
Creating the charity was all the more remarkable given that he and his wife were not exactly technically savvy at the time they recognized the value of creating such an organization – it was only when they were volunteering at a centre in Bangladesh for the rehabilitation of the paralysed that a doctor showed them a computer programme he was developing for remote consultation.
Lord Swinfen facilitated consultants helping people in poor nations. Another member, Lord McColl, is a surgeon who worked in the NHS and who used to spend three months a year working unpaid on board a Mercy Ship – he is a trustee of the charity – undertaking life-saving and sight-saving operations off the coast of Africa.
I am always in awe of the members of the House who do such work. Lord Swinfen is not alone in having established a significant charity. The House benefits greatly from the contributions of those with such knowledge and experience.