As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on behalf of the Opposition on Cancer Treatments. The debate followed the moving House of Lords debate led by Baroness Tessa Jowell, who was diagnosed with a high grade brain tumour, glioblastoma. You can read Tessa's speech in the Lords here.
In her speech, Sharon spoke about how she works with her cross-party colleagues on both the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ovarian Cancer and the APPG on Breast Cancer, which Sharon Chairs and Co-Chairs respectively. Sharon echoed her colleagues calls for increased funding for brain tumour research, increased access to clinical trials and data sharing.
You can read the full debate here: Cancer Treatments
You can watch Sharon's speech on Parliament TV here: Cancer Treatments
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
It is a genuine pleasure to be speaking in this debate on behalf of the Opposition. Indeed, I am speaking in this Chamber for the second time today. Both debates have been on very important issues.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) for securing the debate, and for her very moving and emotional speech. I also want to thank the other hon. Members who have spoken in this excellent debate: the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed), the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), my hon. Friends the Members for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) and for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), who moved us all to tears, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden). They all made excellent contributions. Members throughout the House have been visibly moved by the moving testimonies we have heard.
As has been said, no one in the House or in the country escapes being touched at some time in their life by cancer. I lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer 21 years ago. That was one of the reasons why I joined the all-party group on breast cancer and work with it to this day. I thank the Secretary of State for being here. I am very pleased to see him back in place. I know that Tessa and others will be very grateful for his attendance, and for the personal and moving tribute he gave earlier. I also thank the shadow Secretary of State, who also made a personal tribute to Tessa.
I pay enormous tribute to our very good friend and colleague from the other place, Tessa, for her bravery and determination, and for the outstanding speech she gave in the other place. That was another occasion when people were visibly moved to tears, not just in the other place but across the country as it ran on the news all day. She is as much an inspiration now as she has always been throughout her political career. In 1997, as we have heard, she became the first Public Health Minister—she is a predecessor of the Minister who will be responding today. With the then Secretary of State for Education, Lord Blunkett, she set out to build Sure Start, the early years programme of which she should be immensely proud. It has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of children across the country and been a lifeline for parents, some of whom have said that without it they do not think they would even be here today.
I am enormously proud to have played, in a very small way, a part in continuing the fight for early years provision over 20 years on. When I became shadow Children’s Minister, Tessa’s personal support, advice and guidance were invaluable in helping me fight to protect the legacy she had built. I remember one particular conversation when she said that she had told her officials that she wanted to walk into a Sure Start children’s centre and be able to smell the babies, so she would know the centres were being used and that lives were being changed.
Tessa’s optimism and ambition has affected us all over the years, especially in the run-up to, and in the aftermath of, the 2012 London Olympics, which, as we heard in detail, she secured as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Even since her diagnosis, Tessa continues to inspire us all with her hard work and determination. I wish her all the love in the world, and I really look forward to joining her a little later with her friends and family for a get-together.
As Tessa said in the other place:
“Today…is not about politics but about patients”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 January 2018; Vol. 788, c. 1169.]
I know from my work over many years chairing or co-chairing two cancer all-party groups that we can and do work together when it comes to tackling cancer. The Minister and I co-chaired the all-party group on breast cancer, along with the former hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole, Dame Annette Brooke. I am still vice-chair of that all-party group, and I pay tribute to my fellow officers for continuing their hard work in the group to raise awareness in Parliament of breast cancer.
I also chair the all-party group on ovarian cancer. Observant Members may have noticed that there is always some cancer campaign going on, and last month it was Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. For the first time, the all-party group hosted a drop-in photo call, challenging MPs and peers to be a “teal hero”. This included wearing a superhero mask and a cape—I do not know whether the Minister came along and managed to get caught—to raise awareness among our constituents of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. I am sad to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), who lost his mum to ovarian cancer when he was a teenager, came along and, complete with a superhero pose, pipped me to the post for “best picture”. I hope that colleagues will join me again next year—I will be looking out for the Minister. Although it was fun, it was for a very important purpose: to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Finally in this regard, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) for his sterling work as chair of the all-party group on cancer, which regularly unites all the cancer charities and all-party groups in debates and in work throughout the year, and most notably at the Britain Against Cancer conference every December. All-party groups and the many other cancer groups are the perfect example of how cancer is not about politics. I believe that we have seen that exemplified in its best form in the House today, and that in future we can put our politics aside for Tessa and for all cancer patients and truly fight cancer together.
Around 11,400 people were diagnosed with a brain or related tumour in 2015 in the UK. That includes the approximately 470 children under the age of 15 who are diagnosed with a brain or related tumour in Britain each year. I also commend HeadSmart for the work that it does to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours in children. Brain tumours are the largest single cause of death from cancer in adults under the age of 40, and the most common type of solid tumour in children.
There are, of course, challenges to brain tumour research that limit progress in developing innovative treatments. As we have heard, brain tumour research in the UK has been grossly underfunded, with just 1% of the national spend on cancer research being allocated to this devastating disease. That is why the recent announcement that £45 million would be invested in brain tumour research was so very welcome. I hope that some of the funding will be used to create opportunities for collaboration so that research and data can be shared around the world, because there are real and concerning gaps in the research workforce, both at a senior level and in the number of junior researchers entering the field.
There is also insufficient infrastructure for brain research, and the research community is fragmented, with no clear hubs of excellence and limited opportunities for collaboration. We need to address those challenges for the sake of patients and their families so that we can improve the lives of those living with a brain tumour. One way to do that is to ensure that all brain tumour patients are invited to participate in clinical trials, which can lead to significant improvements in survival and quality of life for future patients diagnosed with a brain tumour. However, despite the clear correlation between greater research and improved outcomes, only 3% of people with a brain tumour take part in a clinical trial. That compares with 7% across all cancers, so what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that brain tumour patients are entered into clinical trials?
In June 2017, the Brain Tumour Charity conducted a survey that found that 97% of those with a brain tumour said that they would be happy to share their medical data to help to accelerate research. As we have heard, Tessa has made the historic decision to be the first patient to consent to sharing her data in the hope that her cancer journey can contribute to new cures that alleviate future suffering. Let me again take the opportunity to commend her for her selflessness. I know that where she leads, others will naturally follow.
For Tessa, the Olympic legacy and Sure Start are just two of many legacies to be proud of, but I think that this legacy will be even greater in its reach and importance. For that, we once again thank you, Tessa.
As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on behalf of the Opposition on Cancer Treatments. The debate followed the moving House of Lords debate...
As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on Surgical Mesh on behalf of the Opposition.
In her speech, Sharon shared her mam's personal experiences of mesh and called on the Government to suspend the use of surgical mesh to ensure that no more lives are affected.
You can read the full debate here: Surgical Mesh
You can watch Sharon's speech here on Parliament TV: Surgical Mesh
You can read Sharon's speech here:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) for securing this important debate and for her passionate speech. Like me, she has been shocked and horrified by the stories we have heard from men and women who have had their lives turned upside down because of surgical mesh. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), who spoke with such passion and knowledge. He was campaigning with the all-party group on surgical mesh implants long before I even came across it, and I am grateful for his contribution and continued leadership.
I thank all Members who have spoken in this excellent debate: the hon. Members for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady); the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis); my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya); the hon. Members for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton), for Belfast South (Emma Little Pengelly), for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster); and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous). The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) spoke for the Scottish National party with such knowledge, and it was a privilege to be in the Chamber to hear her speech. I thank them all for their thoughtful contributions, and I thank their constituents who have allowed their experiences to be shared with us today. It has been distressing to hear their stories and I sympathise with anyone affected by surgical mesh.
Finally, I thank Kath Sansom, who leads the Sling the Mesh campaign, and who I know is watching from the Gallery, for all her hard work in uniting the women affected by vaginal mesh implants and raising awareness of the tragic impact that they have had on so many lives. I thank everyone who is part of that campaign for everything that they do to raise awareness and support women.
After the Westminster Hall debate in October last year, and the media coverage that followed, more women came forward as victims when they realised that the mesh was causing their additional health problems. I am very sorry to say that my 73-year-old mam was one of them. She likes to watch my debates and speeches, as do all our mams, I am sure. When she was at mine one Saturday, while I made lunch, I sat her down to watch some of the speeches that I had made that week. There she was with my iPad: I put on the Westminster Hall debate, it started to play, and I said, “I’m so pleased you haven’t had anything like this done.”
You see, Madam Deputy Speaker, over the past four to five years my mam has been back and forward to the doctors with loads of health issues, from IBS to constant urinary infections, and from stabbing pains in her groin to pain walking and trouble sleeping because of pain and twitching in her legs—and more. It has been never-ending. She said, “I’ve turned 70 and I’m falling to pieces.” She has had cameras everywhere, which is not always pleasant and can be very uncomfortable, but all to no avail. No diagnosis or solution has ever been found. With that background knowledge, the House can imagine my horror when she said, “Oh, no, I just had some tape put in to stop the leaking when I coughed and sneezed!” I had no idea that she had had that done.
As the hon. Member for Torbay said, sometimes women—even your mam—do not like to talk about these things. When I asked her why she had never mentioned it, she said, “Oh, it was quick—I was in and out on the same day. And you’re always so busy, so I just didn’t mention it.” It had not even occurred to her that there could be a connection between what she had been going through for the past four or five years and this procedure that she had had done five years earlier.
As the House can imagine, I went into panic mode, because although we are talking about mesh today, surgeons use many different names for it—tape, ribbon and sling are the more patient-friendly ones. I am also told that they now like to use the phrase “Don’t worry—it’s not the mesh that they talk about in the media.” Surgeons must be absolutely clear with their patients what treatment they are about to receive and address any concerns that they might have, instead of talking about the success of the majority or dismissing those concerns outright.
After the sudden realisation, all my mam’s symptoms over the years suddenly began to make sense and could be attributed directly to the mesh. I am pleased to say that, thanks to the help of the fabulous Kath Sansom, my mam is now armed with all the facts and arguments to take to her GP and surgeon. She has done that and is on the long road to getting reversal surgery, if that is the best option for her. She has also had to come to terms with the fact that she may never be the same again, with the associated guilt that she agreed to the procedure. She trusted the medical profession to do her no harm.
My mam is lucky at the moment, compared with some of the other cases we have heard about today, which she recognises. A Sling the Mesh survey found that more than 78% of patients have pain when walking and sitting; 69% of women have pain that prevented intercourse; more than 60% of patients suffer with anxiety and depression because of the mesh and the symptoms that it causes; and almost 54% suffer with nerve damage. I have seen the piles of medication and medical equipment that some women have to use on a daily basis to try to live a life with a bit of dignity. Before the mesh, these were fit, healthy and, in some cases, young women, as we have heard. Now they need assistance to do simple things such as tie their shoe laces, pick up their children, or even use the toilet. Some have lost their sex lives, their marriage or their job. This is a tragedy for these women and their families. The effects of mesh have been so unbearable that, I am sad to say, some women have tried to end their own lives. Innovative and effective treatments should not do this to patients, and the Government must not stand idly by while women suffer in pain like this. The Opposition continually urge NHS England and NICE to act immediately to update the guidance before 2019—as we have all said—and to suspend the use of vaginal mesh.
The Government’s “Retrospective Review for Vaginal Prolapse and Stress Urinary Incontinence using Tape or Mesh”, published just two days ago, is a first step in understanding the sheer scale of the number of women affected by this scandal. Unfortunately, the effects of mesh are hidden within the document—it takes a bit of a numbers expert to be able to work their way through it. So hidden and complex is the review that, on Tuesday, the Minister in the other place announced that he was giving his expert a month to work it out. I will be waiting with bated breath for that analysis.
It is clear that the review fails to show up all the women who have been treated with mesh in the UK. It shows only the number of women treated in England on the NHS, meaning that patients treated in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and patients treated privately in England, were not included. The audit does not include the sheer number of women who have gone back and forward to their GP for pain relief or antibiotics but who have not yet been referred to a consultant, or even those women who have not yet even made the connection and considered that mesh could be the problem, as was the case with my mam. Why were those women missed out? What is the Minister doing to ensure that their concerns are heard and that they are counted in the numbers?
When the audit was announced, I called for a suspension of the use of mesh while it was carried out. As the hon. Members for Totnes and for Glasgow North West and others have mentioned in their contributions, medical devices do not undergo any clinical trials or rigorous evaluation in this country. If ever there were a case to prove that that needs to change, it is surgical mesh.
As I have said, and as the hon. Member for Glasgow North West mentioned, if this were a car, an aircraft or even a washing machine or a dryer that was malfunctioning and causing life-changing harm in 10% to 15% of cases, its use would be stopped and the product recalled immediately while the problem was investigated. It would not even need to be as high as that, or even the 1% to 3% that was referred to—just a handful of incidents triggers a recall.
The suspension did not happen, so will the Minister please tell the House in her response how many women have had a mesh implant while the audit took place? Does she know how many women since March 2017 have been treated with a mesh implant or had mesh removed, as the audit went up to only March 2017—a year ago? These newly mesh-implanted women may not have any symptoms now, or if they do they will not necessarily realise that the mesh is to blame, but they may do so in a few years’ time.
Since the Westminster Hall debate last year, the audit and the wider medicines and medical devices safety review, patients who have been treated with surgical mesh—not specifically vaginal mesh—have come to feel that their experiences and concerns are not being considered by the Government. Obviously, I include men in that category. The majority of hernia mesh operations are successful. However, complications can leave patients in chronic pain, which patients were not warned about.
According to NHS data, 10% of people who have had hernia mesh fitted go back to their clinician at some point after their surgery. The former surgeon Peter Jones says that the risks of using hernia mesh are so bad that he himself would not take the risk. Will the Minister respond to the concerns of patients who have been harmed by surgical mesh and elaborate specifically on what the Government are doing to review the harm caused by all surgical mesh—not just vaginal mesh?
Let me repeat my calls to the Government once again: the use of surgical mesh must be suspended and NICE must bring forward its review. A simple, quick and cheap operation has turned far too many patients’ lives upside down. We must stop playing Russian roulette with these patients’ lives. It really is time to sling the mesh.
As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on Surgical Mesh on behalf of the Opposition. In her speech, Sharon shared her mam's personal experiences...
As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on austerity and life expectancy.
During her speech, Sharon outlined the fact that life expectancy in the UK has not improved since 2011 and called on the Minister to address both the life expectancy and healthy life expectancy gap between the rich and poor, and the north and south.
You can read the full debate here: Austerity and Life Expectancy
You can watch Sharon's speech on Parliament TV here: Austerity and Life Expectancy
You can read Sharon's full speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) for securing this important debate and for her excellent and well-informed speech. It is of great interest—not only to me, but to the public, who I am sure will be listening closely to the Minister’s response today. I also want to thank the hon. Members for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and for Witney (Robert Courts), my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) and the Scottish National party spokesperson, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), for their thoughtful and passionate speeches, even though I do not necessarily agree with all the things that were said.
As we heard, life expectancy has always gradually increased. Between 1920 and 2010, it increased from 55 to 78 years for men and from 59 to 82 years for women. However, the improvement began to stall in 2011 when the coalition Government came in. That cannot be just a coincidence. Since then, for the first time in over a century, the health of people in England and Wales has stopped improving, and has flat-lined ever since.
I must emphasise that researchers do not believe that we have reached peak life expectancy. The Nordic countries, Japan and Hong Kong all have life expectancies greater than ours and they continue to increase, so why is life expectancy flat-lining in the UK? Why is Britain being left behind and fast becoming the sick man of Europe? I know that the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire said that that was not the case, but academic research by Danny Dorling, published in November 2017, which I have here, said:
“Life expectancy for women in the UK is now lower than in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Often it is much lower. Men…do little better.”
I think the hon. Gentleman needs to check his facts.
The life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest in this country is nothing less than shameful. According to the Institute of Health Equity, the longest life expectancy in the country is, not surprisingly, in the richest borough: Kensington and Chelsea. Men in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to live to 83 and women to 86. Unsurprisingly, you will find the lowest life expectancy in my part of it: the north and Scotland. In Glasgow, life expectancy for men is 73 and in West Dunbartonshire it is 79 for women—10 years of difference for men and seven years for women. The difference within the richest borough, Kensington and Chelsea, is even more stark. Despite living in the richest borough in the country, the most disadvantaged within it can expect to live 14 years less than their most advantaged counterparts. Does the Minister agree that this is completely unacceptable?
The north-south divide remains as relevant as ever when we look at healthy life expectancy—the years that people can expect to live a healthy life. In the south-east, the healthy life expectancy is 65.9 years for men and 66.6 years for women. However, people can expect a shorter healthy life expectancy in the north-east, where men have a healthy life expectancy of 59.7 years and women 59.8 years. That is significantly lower than the England average. Looking after those people during that unhealthy part of life means a huge cost to the NHS. It also means that the inequality gap in healthy life expectancy at birth between the south-east and the north-east is 6.2 years for men and 6.8 years for women.
What will the Minister do to address the life expectancy and healthy life expectancy gap between the rich and poor, and the north and south? It is simply unacceptable that the least advantaged in our society bear the brunt of this Government’s policies—wherever they live. Austerity is not a choice. It is a political ideology, which harms the poorest and the most vulnerable in our communities.
James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con)
It is not rubbish. Professor Sir Michael Marmot warned:
“If we don’t spend appropriately on social care, if we don’t spend appropriately on health care, the quality of life will get worse for older people and maybe the length of life, too”.
Sadly, we have seen this across the board. Despite the growing pressure on our health and social care service, the Government are responsible for spending cuts across our NHS, social care and public health services. While demand continues to increase, the Government have taken away vital funding, which could close the life expectancy gap.
Since local authorities became responsible for public health budgets in 2015, it is estimated by the King’s Fund that, on a like-for-like basis, public health spending will have fallen by 5.2%. That follows a £200 million in-year cut to public health spending in 2015-16. Further real-term cuts are to come, averaging between 3.9% each year between 2016-17 and 2020-21. On the ground, that means cuts to spending on tackling drug misuse among adults of more than £22 million compared with last year and smoking cessation services cut by almost £16 million. Spending to tackle obesity, which the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire mentioned as a cause of shorter life expectancy, has also fallen by 18.5% between 2015-16 and 2016-17 and further cuts are in the pipeline. These are vital services for local communities and could benefit their health and lifestyle, but sadly they continue to be cut due to lack of funding.
How does the Minister expect to close the life expectancy gap without investing properly in vital public health services? An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. The Government must invest in public health and prevention services, as that could play a significant role in closing the life expectancy gap that we are discussing.
When the Prime Minister made her first speech on the steps of Downing Street—the Minister is nodding, because she knows the quote—she said:
“if you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others.”
We were all pleased that the Prime Minister highlighted that issue, but I have been left disappointed with her Government’s lack of response to tackle it. We on this side of the House are committed to ensuring that our health and care system is properly funded, so that all children are given the best possible start in life and older people are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. I hope that the Minister will clearly outline what the Government will do to close the life expectancy gap.
As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on austerity and life expectancy. During her speech, Sharon outlined the fact that life expectancy in the...
Subject: Planning Application Ref. 17/02085/MW4: Land at Hillthorn Farm, Washington
Click on the image below to download the letter.
Subject: Planning Application Ref. 17/02085/MW4: Land at Hillthorn Farm, Washington Click on the image below to download the letter. Click on this link to See Sharon's letter of 1st November,... Read more
This week marks male cancer charity, Orchid’s Male Cancer Awareness Week, which provides an opportunity to raise awareness of male specific cancers – prostate, testicular and penile cancer.
Whilst these cancers aren’t widely talked about, over 50,000 men in the UK will be diagnosed with a male specific cancer in the next 12 months.
The focus of this year’s Male Cancer Awareness Week is on a cancer which one in eight men in the UK will develop at some point in their lives – prostate cancer.
Despite the fact that prostate cancer is due to be the most prevalent cancer in the UK within the next 12 years, a report published by Orchid this week found that over 60% of men are not confident in identifying the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.
Like many cancers, if prostate cancer is diagnosed early, then the likelihood of survival increases.
However, Orchid report some worrying statistics:
· 37% of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in the late stages;
· 42% of prostate cancer patients saw their GP with symptoms twice or more before they were referred;
· 23% of all cancer cases are diagnosed through A&E, with the majority of these cases at the late stage.
That is why this week is so important in raising awareness of male specific cancers, so that the signs and symptoms can be spotted and action, if needed, can be taken.
I am therefore encouraging constituents to take a look at Orchid’s ‘F.A.C.E up to prostate cancer’ campaign, so that they can think about and are aware of 4 key risk factors: family history; age; change in urinary habits and ethnicity.
If patients and health professionals are equipped with the knowledge and confidence to spot signs and symptoms of cancers, it could be detected and diagnosed early, which can increase the likelihood of survival.
If you are affected or worried by any of this, then you should have a conversation with your GP.
This week marks male cancer charity, Orchid’s Male Cancer Awareness Week, which provides an opportunity to raise awareness of male specific cancers – prostate, testicular and penile cancer. Whilst these...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Mar-Apr 2018 number 103
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2018 number 103
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Mar-Apr 2018 number 103 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2018 number 103 Read more
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Last week, the House of Lords passed a motion calling on the Government to postpone their changes to free school meals, which would see over a million children in poverty miss out on a free, hot and healthy school meal.
This follows from a heated debate in the Commons earlier this month where Conservative MPs cried fake news instead of addressing the fact that children growing up in poverty are missing out once again.
The Lords vote gives the Government an opportunity to think again on their policy and consider how all children living in poverty, including those in working families, can be guaranteed at least one decent meal each day.
If the Government pushes through with these proposals, the very aims of Universal Credit to always make work pay, are redundant as the proposals will create a cliff-edge which will remove the incentive for working parents below the £7,400 threshold to take extra hours at work or seek a promotion.
According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, only 3% of families with children are currently on Universal Credit, so only 3% of children will have their Free School Meals protected, regardless of their parent’s earnings.
Free School Meals are a lifeline to thousands of working families up and down the country, as they ensure that their children receive a hot and healthy meal at least once a day.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, I have seen how pupils from all backgrounds can benefit from a free school meal, as it gives them the energy they need to learn, grow and develop.
I am therefore calling on the Government to ensure that every child on Universal Credit receives a Free School Meal so that no child growing up in poverty misses out on a free, hot and healthy school meal.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. Last week, the House of Lords passed a motion calling on the Government to postpone...
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon welcomes the Government's recent announcement that they will invest £2 million to fund holiday hunger initiatives.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, said:
“I am thrilled that the Government have today announced the “Holiday activities and food research fund”. This will ensure that disadvantaged pupils benefit from a hot and healthy meal, like they do during the school day, during the school holidays.
This is something the APPG has been looking at since 2013 and what campaigners and I have been calling for for a number of years now. This has been a long time coming as too many children return to school after the holidays tired and malnourished as they haven’t eaten properly for weeks.
I am pleased that the Government have now opened their eyes to the ever growing problem of holiday hunger, and will support organisations in their delivery of meals during the holidays.”
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon welcomes the Government's recent announcement that they will invest £2 million to fund holiday hunger initiatives. You can read...
As Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018 draws to a close, I thought I would share some thoughts looking back over what has been another successful year in the campaign to increase people’s knowledge of this awful disease.
At the very start of the month it was a pleasure to host the launch event for Eve Appeal’s month long ‘Make Time for Tea’ fundraising campaign. Make Time for Tea encourages people to get together throughout the month of March and hold gatherings in order to fundraise, and spread awareness of the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Last year, these efforts resulted in £60,000 being raised for Eve Appeal, money that will go towards funding ground breaking research.
The evening included updates on current research, and an extremely powerful and moving account of being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at a young age from Laura Moses. Since her diagnosis, Laura has been working incredibly hard to help raise awareness among other young women about the disease, through articles, pictures, speaking appointments and social media. You can read her fantastic blog here. It was a genuine honour to hear her experience, and that of her father who also spoke frankly and openly about how the diagnosis affected the entire family.
Attendees of the launch event were treated to lovely cakes and tea kindly donated by Ole & Steen and Whittard respectively. I would like to thank the Eve Appeal for the tireless work that they do and organising this event which has now become a landmark in the parliamentary calendar.
Hearing Laura’s story re-affirmed to me just how important it is that we support the research being conducted on Ovarian and other Gynaecological Cancers. In my capacity as Chair of the APPG on Ovarian Cancer I recently chaired a session as part of a wider inquiry entitled ‘Diagnosing ovarian cancer sooner: what more can be done?’ The evidence gathered from these sessions will form the basis of a report due to be published in May. Increased genetic testing and screening will be key to ensuring that many more women are diagnosed as early as possible. UK Survival Rates are some of the lowest in Europe, and this is something that must change.
Towards the end of the month I was thrilled to see many MPs from across the House of Commons come together to be #TealHeroes, dressed up in finest Teal regalia. Despite my best efforts, I was pipped to the post as the ‘Best Dressed’ Teal Hero by Andrew Gwynne MP who triumphed with this attempt:
Teal Heroes is a new initiative aimed at increasing awareness amongst women of some of the key symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Many of these symptoms closely resemble those of more minor illnesses and as such are often wrongly diagnosed or dismissed. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure we know the key symptoms and share with them friends and family members.
Finally it was great to see Athena Lamnisos, CEO of the Eve Appeal, raising Ovarian Cancer on a panel discussion at the Women’s Health Parliamentary Conference. Ovarian Cancer Action were also present at the conference with a stall throughout the day to spread awareness amongst the delegates.
As the month comes to an end, I want to pay tribute to all organizations and researchers who are leading in this arena. They provide essential support and fundraising, and are working on projects that will help to reduce the number of people who suffer or die from this terrible disease. Thank you also to Target Ovarian Cancer who provide the secretariat for the Ovarian Cancer APPG, and work tirelessly throughout the year.
As Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018 draws to a close, I thought I would share some thoughts looking back over what has been another successful year in the campaign to...
Left to right: Kirsty, Sharon, Tracey and Bob McGurrell Read more