Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the elimination of Hepatitis C. NHS England have a target of eliminating the virus by 2025. During her speech, Sharon welcomed this target but also highlighted the challenges that need to be tackled before then.

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You can read the full debate here

You can watch Sharon's speech here

You can read Sharon's speech below:

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I thank the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) for securing this important debate and for the work that he has done as co-chair of the all-party group on liver health for many years, as well as for his excellent opening speech today. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), a vice-chair of the all-party group, is not in his place today, but I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done to raise awareness of this issue. I thank the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) for their excellent contributions and I thank the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) for his interventions.

Finally, I thank Professor Steve Ryder, whom I met earlier this year, for his expert briefing and for the obvious passion that he has for eradicating hepatitis C in this country as soon as possible. I also pay tribute to the Hepatitis C Trust and the Hepatitis C Coalition for the work that they do.

I welcome NHS England’s ambitious commitment earlier this year to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025, five years ahead of the World Health Organisation’s target. Healthcare professionals and experts are confident that hepatitis C can be eliminated, notwithstanding everything we have heard today about the cap on the treatment. Today is the first time I have heard about that, but I am sure the Minister will respond to the issue in his remarks soon. I remain concerned about some of the challenges that need to be faced by 2025 if the target is to be achieved.

Hepatitis C, as we have heard, is a hidden disease with patients experiencing few or no obvious symptoms for many years, but its long-term effects can cause severe liver damage if it goes untreated. Across the UK, around 214,000 people are infected with hepatitis C, but I understand that 40% to 50% remain undiagnosed. That huge percentage of people going undiagnosed is one of the biggest challenges to eliminating this virus—we cannot treat people if we do not know who they are. As Professor Paul Klapper and Pam Vallely of Manchester University ask in an article published this year,

“how do we identify those who are infected so that they can be guided into treatment and care?”

As I, and many others, have mentioned today, hepatitis C is a hidden disease. People may be completely unaware that they are living with the virus, and at risk of unknowingly passing it on to those around them. Although awareness of hepatitis C is gradually improving, low awareness and stigma remains a challenge to ensuring that as many people as possible are tested, diagnosed and treated.

Levels of stigma and poor awareness are particularly high among at-risk groups, such as former or current drug users, or those who do not access conventional healthcare facilities, possibly because of fear of being challenged or stigmatised. How will the Government ensure that those at-risk groups are reached—not only for testing but for continued treatment? Again, this is where the cap will come into things; as more people come forward and are diagnosed, we must be able to treat them.

People need continued support throughout their treatment to ensure that they complete the course of medicine—if they do not, it is just a waste of time and money. Will the Government provide extra support to at-risk groups to ensure that that happens? An effective way of raising awareness and breaking down the stigma of hepatitis C is to introduce peer-to-peer messaging programmes for at-risk groups. Such a provision could be increased in settings such as drug services and prisons, and would mean that there will already be an understanding and relationship between the two parties. Has the Minister made any assessment of the role that a peer-to-peer programme might have in achieving the goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2025?

Although at-risk groups make up a huge proportion of those living with hepatitis C, people who do not consider themselves to be at risk also pose a challenge to the 2025 target. As we have heard, Anita Roddick from The Body Shop was one of those who would not have been in an at-risk group, and she would have had no way of knowing that she was infected with hepatitis C. The excellent all-party group on liver health stated that

“A high-profile, Government-backed awareness campaign should be considered, and awareness messaging should be targeted through novel channels at those who may not consider themselves to be ‘at risk’.”

Do the Government have any plans to support Public Health England in raising awareness of hepatitis C among the wider general public, and what format might that campaign take?

Crucially, awareness among primary care professionals should be increased through targeted testing initiatives in primary care, with additional resources and support for primary care workers. If we are to eliminate hepatitis C, we must seize the opportunity when people are already having blood taken—tests for HIV for example, or when bloods are taken in A&E—and test them for hepatitis C. Testing should become routine in substance misuse services, sexual health clinics and prisons, and it must also increase in primary care and community settings, such as hostels, daycentres and police custody. The prevalence of hepatitis C among the prison population is four times that of the population as a whole. If the amount of people tested increases, we will be closer to identifying the 40% to 50% of infected people who are living with it unknowingly, and we will be one step closer to eliminating the virus.

A big step in recent years has been the development of a new class of drugs—direct-acting antivirals or DAAs—that has revolutionised the treatment of hepatitis C. The drugs no longer carry the toxicity or side effects of previous treatments, and the short treatment courses effectively cure the infection in a high percentage of cases. Once patients are diagnosed, however, it is crucial that they are treated immediately, because the time between diagnosis and starting treatment poses the greatest risk of patients dropping out of the care pathway.

For example, a prisoner who is diagnosed and treated while in prison but who is then released might not continue with the treatment and could be at risk of infecting others, as well as of not being cured. What mechanisms will the Government put in place to ensure that those who begin their treatment can finish it, regardless of any change in circumstances? Quicker referrals are also needed to simplify the process of linking people into care. Currently, some secondary care services will only accept referrals for treatment from GPs. The all-party group on liver health recommends that referrals for hepatitis C treatment should be accepted from any service where someone might receive a test and be diagnosed. Has the Minister made any assessment of that recommendation?

Finally, I move on to prevention. If we are to eliminate hepatitis C—we all want that to happen—we must ensure that the number of new infections falls. Substance misuse services and sexual health clinics have a crucial role in that, but their funding has consistently been cut by the Government. The King’s Fund estimates that spending on tackling drug misuse in adults has been cut by more than £22 million compared with last year, and funding for sexual health services has been cut by £30 million compared with last year. What role do the Government expect such services to play in the elimination of hepatitis C, given such finite funding and resources? Those services provide not only a testing service, but an educational one that could help reduce reinfection rates—a further challenge to the elimination of this virus. 

I am sure the Minister will agree that serious challenges lie ahead in meeting our ambition to eradicate hepatitis C by 2025. All those challenges need to be addressed—not only to meet NHS England’s target, but to ensure that this potential public health crisis is averted. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response on how the Government plan to tackle those challenges in the months and years ahead.

Elimination of Hepatitis C Westminster Hall debate 12.06.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the elimination of Hepatitis C. NHS England have a target of eliminating the virus by 2025....

Brief on Environment Agency regulation of the waste sector in Washington Cluster

Information from Environment Agency on Washington Corridor, Teal Farm, Washington. Brief outlining regulation of the waste sector in the Washington Cluster June 2018 Environment Agency Website https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency/about/complaints-procedure  

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Friday 8th June 2018, Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, joined constituents and campaigners outside the Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre for the launch of a campaign against the proposed closure of Urgent Care Centres in Sunderland.

Sharon Hodgson MP joins campaign against the proposed closure of Urgent Care Centres in Washington and Sunderland

Friday 8th June 2018, Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, joined constituents and campaigners outside the Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre for the launch of a campaign against... Read more

Sharon Hodgson attended a launch event for National Fitness Day in Westminster this week (15 May), and is now urging her constituents of Washington and Sunderland West to put themselves forward to be a regional fitness hero ahead of the event, which takes place on Wednesday 26 September.

Sharon called on people to share a message about what fitness means to them online, using Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and the hashtag #Fitness2Me. From those who champion healthy lifestyles in their towns and communities, to those who have overcome the odds through physical activity, beaten depression or inspired young people to get active, the search aims to celebrate the role of fitness in every walk of life.

National Fitness Day is an annual campaign that celebrates the fun of fitness and physical activity, while highlighting the benefits leading an active lifestyle can have on our overall health on the most active day of the year.

The most inspiring #Fitness2Me heroes will be selected from 12 regions by organisers ukactive, the not-for-profit health body. Each hero will be invited to help get their local community active on National Fitness Day and their story will be promoted to a national audience in the run-up to the day.

Sharon Hodgson MP said:

“National fitness day is an opportunity to encourage more people to become active and take part in activities across their community and have the chance to enjoy and share their love of physical activity.

In my position as Shadow Public Health Minister, I recognise the importance that physical activity has on everyone’s health and wellbeing. That is why I will be encouraging my constituents to get involved in National Fitness Day, and encouraging them to stay fit and active throughout the year.

It’s so easy to take part and is a brilliant way to bring the community together to celebrate the joy and health benefits that physical activity can bring.”   

Last year, National Fitness Day saw more than 20,000 free activities take place across the UK and 5.1 million people getting physically active on the day.

Legendary ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell has declared her backing for National Fitness Day 2018, with the Strictly Come Dancing judge set to kick-off proceedings on the day with her dance fitness company DDMIX.

And the Department of Health has added its support by recognising the crucial role of physical activity in the nation’s health and wellbeing.

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said:

“Being active is so important – it adds years to our lives, saves billions of pounds for our NHS and helps to manage and prevent over 20 chronic conditions, including heart disease, type-2 diabetes and mental health problems. That’s why I’m delighted to support National Fitness Day – which can play a crucial role in getting the nation moving.”

AXA PPP healthcare has also renewed its commitment to supporting healthy workplaces by extending its headline partnership of National Fitness Day for another three years. The partnership includes a focus on supporting employers to promote a physically active workforce through AXA PPP’s ‘Flying Start’ campaign, which calls on employers to help their staff enjoy an active start to National Fitness Day.

Gordon Henderson, Marketing Director at AXA PPP healthcare, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with National Fitness Day, for 2018 and beyond. Busy work schedules and family commitments can mean it’s hard to make time for physical activity but we believe employers have a key role to play in helping their people to get moving. National Fitness Day is a great way for workplaces to get involved and build being active into their working day.”

CEO of ukactive Steven Ward said: “National Fitness Day is all about celebrating the personal experiences and stories that physical activity brings to our lives. Whatever fitness means to you, we’re calling on you to share that message with the nation so that more people can be inspired to live healthy, active lifestyles.

“National Fitness Day continues to go from strength to strength and we’re delighted that AXA PPP healthcare has committed to a further three years on our journey, helping us to reach into Britain’s workplaces with their Flying Start campaign.”

How to get involved:

  • There are lots of ways to share what fitness means to you: post a message to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, add a photo of yourself or upload a video message – just don’t forget to include the hashtag #Fitness2Me
  • If you would like to share your fitness story in more detail, email nationalfitnessday@ukactive.org.uk
  • To discover more or to register your activities and events for National Fitness Day, visit: nationalfitnessday.com

 

Sharon Hodgson MP calls on local fitness heroes to lead the way in run-up to National Fitness Day

Sharon Hodgson attended a launch event for National Fitness Day in Westminster this week (15 May), and is now urging her constituents of Washington and Sunderland West to put themselves...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report May-Jun 2018 number 105

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Click on the image above to download the report.

Sharon Hodgson MP's report May-Jun 2018 number 105

Sharon Hodgson MP's report May-Jun 2018 number 105 Click on the image above to download the report. Read more

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Sharon receives an update from Sunderland City Council to a query on behalf of a constituent, re the Rolton Kilbride planning application timetable.

Click on the image below to read the letter.

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Sharon receives another update from Sunderland Council re planning application

Sharon receives an update from Sunderland City Council to a query on behalf of a constituent, re the Rolton Kilbride planning application timetable. Click on the image below to read... Read more

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. 

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Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently launched a public consultation on urgent care centres in the city.

Two of the three centres that will be affected by the new proposals are in my constituency, Bunny Hill and Washington.

I am appalled by the revelation of this consultation, especially as I was only alerted to its existence on the same morning, just hours before the general public, and I share the concerns and frustration constituents may feel about it.

Closing down urgent care centres in local communities, who may not have access to transport to travel further afield or the time to do so, is a shameful symptom of this Conservative Government’s austerity measures, who continue to deprive the most vulnerable in society from the services they need.

I am also bitterly disappointed that of the nine forthcoming public discussions, just three of them are outside of typical working hours (after 5pm), with just one starting at 6pm.

I am deeply concerned that this means that some working people will not be able to participate in these discussions, and may be excluded from the consultation.

I am also aware that there is no consultation at the Bunny Hill Centre, so the people these changes will impact the most will be excluded from the consultation process.

The Bunny Hill Centre was once home to one of Labour’s fantastic Sure Start Children’s centres, but this is sadly no longer there as was a casualty of austerity and one of the over 1000 centres that have been closed down since 2010, despite reassurances from David Cameron who said Sure Start was safe in his hands.

Families need support, and to take away that support is to remove a life line they may one day desperately need.

Unfortunately, I do not have any more sway over the consultation than local residents, but I will be meeting with David Gallagher in the coming weeks ahead to discuss my concerns and will be making representations on behalf of my constituents.

In the meantime, constituents should participate in the consultation by either attending the public discussions or completing the online survey, details of which can be found online here: http://www.sunderlandccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/urgent-care-services/public-consultation-get-involved/


ECHO COLUMN: Threat to Sunderland urgent care centres is shameful

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.  Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently launched a public consultation on urgent care centres in...

Sharon expressed her concerns in a Westminster Hall debate on Job Losses in the Automotive Industry. With uncertainty building due to Brexit, the move towards Electric Vehicles and drops in consumer confidence after the emissions scandal, Sharon called on the Government to do more in order to restore confidence in the sector and reassure those who may be worried by recent job losses. 

You can read the full debate here: UK Automotive Industry: Job Losses

You can watch Sharon's speech here: UK Automotive Industry: Job Losses

You can read Sharon's speech below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for securing this important debate.

As many of my colleagues will know, Nissan has a large plant in my constituency, which employs about 7,000 people directly and 28,000 in the UK supply chain. It contributes significantly to the local and national economy. Nissan recently announced job losses at the plant, which was of course hugely disappointing news. Many people will have been concerned about the announcement, but I understand from speaking to Nissan at the time that, although it was unfortunate, the decision was due to anticipated drops in demand for vehicles currently under production. Based on business projections, it is expected that making the changes will allow for increased production of newer models in the future that will therefore provide more jobs in the long term.

With the uncertainty around the diesel industry because of Brexit, the move towards electric vehicles and drops in consumer confidence after the emissions scandal, it is easy to see how any loss of jobs can be seen as part of a wider concern. The motor vehicle manufacturing industry provided 7% of all UK manufacturing jobs in 2016, and it is only right to follow any changes closely and act to prevent further losses. With those points in mind, I want to talk about the Government’s target to ban all sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

The UK is in the grip of an air pollution crisis—the Environment Secretary was talking about it this morning—with pollutants responsible for 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. I see two problems with the target however. First, it is not ambitious enough to deal with the environmental issue with sufficient urgency or to ensure that the UK maintains its leadership on electric vehicles. Research shows that bringing the target forward by 10 years could nearly halve UK oil imports, support a larger number of jobs overall in the automotive sector and reduce total cumulative carbon dioxide emissions in a shorter period. Is the Minister’s Department currently considering bringing the target forward?

Secondly, I do not see how consumers are being assisted in the industry-wide move away from more polluting cars and, ultimately, towards electric vehicles. Reaching any target will require a seismic change in consumer behaviour. In 2009, the Labour Government introduced a vehicle scrappage scheme designed to help the motor industry through the recession following the global financial crisis. It was co-funded by the Government and the car industry, and 400,000 claims were submitted. If we are now to expect consumers to move away from older and more polluting diesel and petrol vehicles, often at some expense, is it not right that the Government should assist them to do so, particularly when we consider that, historically, many consumers were encouraged to purchase diesel vehicles?

I had a lot more to say, but I shall leave my remarks there, to give other Members their moment in the sun.​

UK automotive industry: job losses Westminster Hall Debate 22.05.18

Sharon expressed her concerns in a Westminster Hall debate on Job Losses in the Automotive Industry. With uncertainty building due to Brexit, the move towards Electric Vehicles and drops in consumer...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly.

During her speech, Sharon raised concerns about the number of women who may not know that they need to take folic acid before pregnancy, and asked the Minister what steps his Department are taking to ensure that women are made aware of this. 

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You can read the debate here

You can watch Sharon's speech here

You can read Sharon's speech below

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson; I think it is the first time I have had such a pleasure.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) for securing the debate and for his eloquent speech. As always, he showed his knowledge and passion on this important topic. I also thank the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who speaks for the Scottish National party and mentioned that the Scottish Government have looked at this policy and, as I understand the situation, concluded that it was impossible to bring in fortified flour on a Scotland-only basis because of the fluid nature of the UK food industry and the very fluid nature of flour. I therefore think it is definitely time that the UK Government looked at this issue again.

I thank the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds) for his brave and personal speech, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for their excellent contributions to the debate. Finally, I add my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley), who raised this matter last week during Health and Social Care questions.

As we have heard, this issue has been on the table for decades now, and it is only right that it continues to be brought up at every possible opportunity. The UK Government continue their policy of voluntary folic acid supplementation for women of childbearing age, despite the evidence and the fact that the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey states that 91% of women of childbearing age have a red blood cell folate level below the level estimated to lower the risk of NTDs. I therefore ask the Minister what he is doing to encourage women of childbearing age to take folic acid supplements. Additionally, what steps is his Department taking to ensure that women of childbearing age even know that they should take those supplements?

Incidentally, this was something that I was aware of when I was having my children 25 years ago. We think things have moved on, but my young researcher in my office said that she only found out about it when she was researching for this speech. So, the message is not out there—not everybody knows this information. The voluntary approach means that, more often than not, those who do not need the supplements will take them, whilst those most at risk will miss out. Young mothers and those from the most socioeconomically deprived areas are least likely to take supplements. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that these groups of women are included and reached?

I am sure that it will not come as a surprise to the Minister that as many as 40% of pregnancies are unplanned, and that means that many women will not have been taking supplements during the crucial phase, just before or just after conception. It therefore makes sense for flour to be fortified with folic acid, to ensure that women get the nutrients that they need in order to reduce the risk of NTDs. That already happens in over 80 countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

Currently, no countries in the European Union fortify their flour with folic acid. However, there is no legislation preventing any of them from doing so. Given the UK’s research on this matter, I believe that they are waiting for us to lead the way, and as we have heard, I believe Scotland is probably doing just that. Why are the Government not therefore taking the opportunity to lead the way and reduce NTDs, not only in the UK but, in turn, across Europe? I understand and sympathise with concerns about adverse effects that this may have on the population. However, there really is no evidence to suggest that from other countries that have fortified their flour with folic acid for many years.

I also note the response of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities from Health and Social Care questions last week:

“We have advice that if the intake of folic acid exceeds given levels, that can also bring health problems”.—[Official Report, 8 May 2018; Vol. 640, c. 537.]

However, the modelling undertaken by Food Standards Scotland in 2017 indicated that fortification at the recommended levels, with a capping of voluntary fortification and supplements, can achieve the reductions in NTD risk without increasing the number of people consuming the upper recommended limit. Has the Minister made any assessment of that finding, and could he stipulate where his advice is from? Finally, has the Minister’s Department made any assessment in the last five years of the benefits of fortifying flour with folic acid?

From this afternoon’s debate it is clear that there are benefits to the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid. I really do hope that the Minister will take all of this away with him today back to his Department and reconsider this policy—unless, of course, he is going to announce that he is going to fortify flour forthwith.

Fortified flour Westminster Hall debate 16.05.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly. During her speech,...

Updated 16/05/2018 - Sharon writes to Baroness Cumberlege regarding the Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review

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Click on the image above to download the letter.

Previous post of 13/04/2018 below

Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review

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Over many years, Sharon has met with victims, campaigners and charities who support and campaign for justice for victims of Primodos, Valproate and Vaginal Mesh.

Update - Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review

Updated 16/05/2018 - Sharon writes to Baroness Cumberlege regarding the Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review Click on the image above to download the letter. Previous post of 13/04/2018 belowMedicines... Read more

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