Thank you for all your emails regarding the medicinal use of cannabis and the case of Alfie Dingley.
The law around drug use is a sensitive issue and I recognise that there are a range of strongly held views on this matter. I have enormous sympathy for anybody with a physical condition seeking the most effective pain relief and I know that several organisations are campaigning for changes in drugs laws, specifically the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.
As you may be aware, there is already a regulatory process in place to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients.
On 20 February, there was a statement on the very subject of medicinal cannabis in the Commons. You can read the full transcript in Hansard: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-02-20/debates/5C18DA05-4AF4-408A-A7C2-67F3E84133CC/MedicalCannabis. As you will see from the transcript, this is an issue which is gaining traction and I suspect it will return to the Commons again before long.
Members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on drug policy reform are calling on the government to assist with Alfie's plight. I very much welcome the Home Office’s recent announcement that it is considering allowing a medical cannabis trial to treat Alfie’s a rare form of epilepsy.
Thank you for all your emails regarding the medicinal use of cannabis and the case of Alfie Dingley.The law around drug use is a sensitive issue and I recognise that...
I received a number of emails from constituents ahead of the second reading of Geoffrey Robinson MP's Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which took place in the Commons on Friday 23rd February.
I agree that more needs to be done to ensure that as many people as possible in the UK receive the transplant they require and I therefore fully support the move for an opt-out system in England. Transplants save and improve quality of life and currently there are around 6,500 people waiting for an organ transplant across the UK.
An opt-out system has already been introduced in Wales and the Scottish Government has also announced its intention bring forward similar legislation following a public consultation in which 82% of respondents supported the move.
In December last year, the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation on its proposals to change the legal default on consent for organ and tissue donation to opt-out. I am pleased that the Government is allowing anyone with a view to take part in the consultation, which will run until 6 March 2018.
More widely, I believe that medical and healthcare professionals must be involved in the process of designing any changes to the system. It is also important that the Government works closely with community groups to ensure that cultural and religious views are considered before any change is introduced.
I am pleased to report that the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill passed its second reading and will now proceed to committee stage.
I received a number of emails from constituents ahead of the second reading of Geoffrey Robinson MP's Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which took place in the Commons on Friday...
Many people have contacted me recently regarding care for people with dementia. Improving the quality of social care is a vital part of providing dignity in older age and support for people living with a long-term condition.
However, the Government has no plan on this issue and is failing to take the immediate action required to find a long-term and sustainable solution to social care funding.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget failed to offer any additional funding nor make any mention of social care entirely. In December, the Government confirmed that it will not implement its plans for a cap on care costs in 2020, and has also delayed its green paper on social care until summer 2018, despite promises that this would be published by the end of 2017.
The Alzheimer's Society have expressed the feeling of many that the Government is neglecting social care and that people with dementia will rightfully feel betrayed and abandoned as a result.
At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised an extra £8 billion to tackle the funding gap in social care, including an additional £1 billion for the first year. This would have extended publicly funded social care to thousands of people in highest need.
I can assure that I and my Labour colleagues will keep up pressure on the Government on this issue and I hope the Chancellor will use the upcoming Spring Budget to provide the required funding for social care.
Many people have contacted me recently regarding care for people with dementia. Improving the quality of social care is a vital part of providing dignity in older age and support...
I’ve recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding education and care for people with autism.
All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education. A recent report published by the National Autistic Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism found that 70% of parents of children with autism say that support was not put in place quickly enough for their child. Additionally, fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum.
The report recommended for the Government to develop a national autism and education strategy by the end of 2019.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to deliver a strategy for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff.
The manifesto also set the ambition to make our country autism-friendly and committed to make sure autistic people are able to access the whole of their community.
I can assure that I and my Labour colleagues will press the Government to act on this issue and urge them to carefully consider the recommendations of the report by the APPG on autism.
I’ve recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding education and care for people with autism. All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education. A recent...
I have received many emails from constituents recently regarding postnatal mental health. I share concerns over this issue entirely and believe it is essential that mothers with a mental health problem have access to the treatment and support they require.
Whilst it is common for new mothers to suffer from postnatal mental illness, according to the Half Hidden campaign, only half receive the treatment they need.
I believe that mental health must be given the same priority as physical health. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point, yet tens of thousands receive inadequate or no treatment at all.
The lack of sufficient funding for neonatal services across the board is extremely worrying. Since 2010, mental health funding has been cut, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,600 and remaining mental health budgets have been raided to plug holes elsewhere in the NHS. Despite commitments made by our Prime Minister last year to address mental health, so far the Government have made little meaningful progress on this issue.
I have previously raised the issue of neonatal care and mental health in parliament, including this written question to the Minister in regards to Baby Care Units:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, with reference to recommendation 11 on page 41 in the report by Bliss, Hanging in the Balance, published in 2015, what progress his Department has made towards ensuring that all parents and staff on neonatal units have access to psychological support in line with national standards.
This is the response I received:
The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health included a specific recommendation for NHS England to improve perinatal services. The aim is that by 2020/21, there will be increased access to specialist perinatal mental health support in all areas in England, in the community or in-patient mother and baby units, allowing at least an additional 30,000 women each year to receive evidence based treatment, closer to home, when they need it. The Department and NHS England have committed a total investment from 2015/16 to 2020/21 of £365 million to support this expanded service. For National Health Service staff, NHS England launched a £5 million programme of health and wellbeing support in 2015, which included measures to help staff deal with stress and mental ill health.
I have received many emails from constituents recently regarding postnatal mental health. I share concerns over this issue entirely and believe it is essential that mothers with a mental health... Read more
I recently received a large number of campaign cards from RCN members contacting me about the cap on nursing pay. I know this is an issue a lot of people in the constituency care about so I thought I would share my latest response here.
Nurses do a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances, yet they have now faced years of pay restraint. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) estimates that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14%.
In Autumn Budget on November 22nd Chancellor Philip Hammond agreed to fund pay awards for NHS staff, but he did not specify how much new money is to be made available. The Government also said that any pay increase would be “on the condition that the pay award enabled improved productivity in the NHS”, a move which has been criticised by the Chief Executive of NHS England.
I believe the Government has been taking NHS staff for granted for far too long. Nurses are being asked to do more for less, which has resulted in a recruitment and retention crisis. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service recently confirmed that applications to study nursing fell by 23% this year and the Nursing and Midwifery Council has also found an increase in the number of nurses and midwives leaving their professions
The 2017 Labour manifesto pledged to end the public sector pay cap and make a return to public sector pay being agreed through collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies. I also supported an Opposition amendment in the House of Commons which called on the Government to give public sector workers a fair pay rise. Unfortunately, the Government voted against the amendment and it was defeated.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to do all we can to ensure that nurses and other public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication they bring to their jobs.
You might also be interested to see the blog I wrote on this subject back in February.
I recently received a large number of campaign cards from RCN members contacting me about the cap on nursing pay. I know this is an issue a lot of people...
Many of my constituents have contacted me recently about the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP). I share these concerns and believe that the Government should cancel the CEP immediately.
In June this year, various NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups, as well as the Health Service Journal, reported that a number of health regions have been placed into a CEP. The British Medical Association has described the CEP as a new regulatory intervention “designed to radically and rapidly cut spending in geographical areas with the largest budget deficits.”
I am very concerned over the lack of transparency provided by the Government on these plans – despite having been going on since at least April, there has been no announcement from the Health Secretary, and full details remain unpublished. The Government has also confirmed that no consultation has taken place regarding the process.
Worryingly, the CEP appears to be another example of hidden cuts. The House of Commons Library published a report in September discovering that, in addition to reviewing existing financial plans, CEP areas were also asked to consider closing or redesigning services and restricting access.
As we approach winter, I am aware of concerns over how our health service will cope – I wrote previously about this issue here. Further spending reductions will inevitably result in waiting times drawn out, wards closed, staff numbers cut, units shut and treatments rationed or restricted.
However, I can assure that, should our health services come under threat in Lewisham Deptford (as with Lewisham Hospital), I am prepared to fight hard against this.
Many of my constituents have contacted me recently about the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP). I share these concerns and believe that the Government should cancel the CEP immediately. In June...
A number of constituents have contacted me recently asking me to support the lowering of the bowel cancer screening age to 50.
Early diagnosis is of course critical to improving cancer survival. The UK National Screening Committee, which advises ministers and the NHS about all aspects of population screening, recommended faecal occult blood testing should be extended to those aged 50 to 74. I know the Government has already received Parliamentary Questions on this issue, and a related online petition has been signed by more than 274,000 people. I hope the Government considers this carefully when responding.
I believe investment in local screening programmes can make a real difference to the nation’s health. However, the Government has pushed ahead with short-sighted cuts to public health budgets without considering the impact on people’s health. This is a false economy and I believe the NHS and social care sector must be provided with the funding that is desperately needed.
I wrote to the Department of Health about this issue back in February and received the below response from David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (the response has been edited to remove a constituent's personal details).
A number of constituents have contacted me recently asking me to support the lowering of the bowel cancer screening age to 50. Early diagnosis is of course critical to improving...
Lots of people have been writing to me about Government's decision to scrap bursaries for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions and replace them with a loan system. It's something I strongly oppose and therefore have decided to write to Jeremy Hunt.
Lots of people have been writing to me about Government's decision to scrap bursaries for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions and replace them with a loan system. It's something I strongly... Read more
On Monday 13th March Diana Johnson MP introduced a ten minute rule bill to decriminalise abortion. The bill was successfully voted through by 170 votes to 142 and will now be brought forward by a cross-party group of MPs.
A large number of constituents contacted me ahead of the bill, the vast majority of them asking me to support it but a few asking me to oppose it. I was in the Commons to vote in favour and would like to take this opportunity to explain my reasons.
In England and Wales, abortion remains a criminal act punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. The Abortion Act 1967 set out conditions under which a woman could have a legal abortion (i.e. by obtaining the signatures of two doctors and meeting specified conditions, which are much stricter after 24 weeks’ gestation) but did nothing to change the criminality of procedures which did not meet those conditions.
Evidence suggests that some vulnerable women are potentially committing a criminal offence because they are unable to access legal abortions and instead buy pills online. Practitioners are also deterred from working in the field by the threat of legal action.
I firmly agree with Ms Johnson’s proposal that abortion should be taken out of criminal law. The existing safeguards (including those mentioned above, as well as the banning of sex-selective abortion and the fact the procedure can only be carried out by licensed practitioners) can be retained by Parliament. There is no evidence from countries such as Sweden, Canada and Luxembourg which have already decriminalised abortion to suggest that this has led to an increase in late-term abortions. The UK currently has the harshest penalty of any country in Europe and it is time that this was addressed by Parliament.
On Monday 13th March Diana Johnson MP introduced a ten minute rule bill to decriminalise abortion. The bill was successfully voted through by 170 votes to 142 and will now be...