Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Dec 2017-Jan 2018 number 100

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Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Dec 2017-Jan 2018 number 100

Sharon Hodgson MP's report Dec 2017 - Jan 2018 number 100

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Dec 2017-Jan 2018 number 100 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Dec 2017-Jan 2018 number... Read more

20th Dec 2017 - Sharon receives response from Sunderland City Council on behalf of a constituent.  Click on image to view response.

Response from Council on Rolton Kilbride

Sharon receives response from Sunderland City Council - 20th Dec 2017

20th Dec 2017 - Sharon receives response from Sunderland City Council on behalf of a constituent.  Click on image to view response. Read more

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Sharon has today (20th December) geared up her long-standing campaign to bring the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington with a letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, following the publication of the Department for Transport’s: Connecting people: a strategic vision for rail.

In her letter, Sharon raises the need for much needed economic growth in the North East and how this can be untapped with improved transport infrastructure investment and highlights how the extension of the Metro network into Washington is a perfect example of unlocking economic growth.

Further in the letter, Sharon outlines how statements made in the Connecting people document help make the case that she has been making for many years now, including the improved connectivity that extending the Metro, and therefore the Leamside Line, but also the jobs it can bring to not only the major cities but also Washington itself.

Following sending the letter, Sharon said:

“Banging the drum in Parliament for this campaign is something I have been honoured to do, and will keep on doing, as it would help unlock the much needed economic growth our region so desperately needs.

“The vision set out by the Government does leave me with trepidation following their shoddy track record on transport infrastructure; yet, this is a perfect opportunity to make the case to ministers to fund this long-standing campaign.

“For too long, the people of Washington have waited for improvements to their transport connectivity by extending the Metro to Washington and it is high time ministers acted to give the people of our town the transport network they desire and deserve.”

You can read Sharon's letter to the Transport Secretary by following this link HERE.

Sharon gears up campaign to extend Metro to Washington with letter to Transport Secretary

Sharon has today (20th December) geared up her long-standing campaign to bring the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington with a letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, following... Read more

Sharon has pledged to tackle children going hungry during the school holidays.

Attending the launch of charity Feeding Britain’s new report, Ending Hunger in the Holidays, Sharon showed her support for the upcoming School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill, which has been put forward by Frank Field MP and has cross party support.

The Bill would give local authorities the legal duty to ensure that children can have free food and fun activities during the holidays to support their educational attainment and health. The Bill would also bring extra resources for holidays clubs funded by money recouped from the Sugary Drinks Levy.

Sharon, said:

“I have long campaigned on the issue of children’s health, well-being and education, and the importance of feeding children properly so they can achieve their full potential and believe we need to be doing more to address the issue of hunger in our society.

“For the 5th richest economy in the world, it is deeply saddening that our 21st century society harks back to one from a Dickensian-era, where children go hungry for extended periods of time without any support or action from authorities to protect children – as is their duty.

“That is why I am fully behind this Bill, as it will help take us one step closer to ending child hunger and I will make sure I am in Parliament to help see this legislation through to its next stages.”

Feeding Britain’s report reveals that in excess of 187,000 meals were provided to children in the summer and during October half term holidays this year, but stresses that this is only a drop in the ocean compared to the level of need.

The report concludes: “Holiday clubs provide an urgently needed safety net to protect children from hunger and social isolation, but an incomplete one, and one that is increasingly strained.”

The report highlights the importance of holidays clubs, which protect children and their families from hunger and social isolation in the holidays, boost children’s health and learning, and to help prevent children falling behind their more affluent peers during the holidays.

Recent research done by Northumbria University in the North East showed that children from poorer backgrounds see a stagnation or reduction in spelling skills over the summer holidays, and take several weeks to recover lost learning.

The Feeding Britain report Ending Hunger in the Holidays, can be downloaded from www.feeding-britain.org

 

Sharon backs Bill to end Hunger in the Holidays

Sharon has pledged to tackle children going hungry during the school holidays. Attending the launch of charity Feeding Britain’s new report, Ending Hunger in the Holidays, Sharon showed her support...

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

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Supporting children in their formative years has always been a passion of mine and an area which I have helped push during my time as an MP.

Yet recent analysis by Labour has shown that under the Tories we have seen £500 million cut from the Early Intervention Grant since 2013, with a projected £183 million more to be cut by 2020.

This represents a total cut of 40 per cent between 2013 and 2020.

Early intervention saves society a lot more than intervening at a later stage when support can be less effective.

It can ensure that children’s lives are improved and they have the opportunity to achieve all that they can. This is not being seen under the Tories, despite their rhetoric of being champions of social mobility.

If they were serious about improving the lives of children, then they wouldn’t be cutting off the vital funding necessary to achieving it.

The Government has a track record of putting the opportunities of children at risk with no consideration for their futures.

Firstly, we have seen one in three Sure Start Centres close across the country.

Secondly, we have seen the Government determined to scrap Universal Infant Free School Meals on two occasions now (2015 and 2017), which thanks to campaigners and parents we have seen saved for now.

Or, thirdly, the current worries regarding the roll-out of Universal Credit and the impact this will have on free school meals, where under proposals on the future of free school meals currently under consultation, the Children’s Society have estimated that one million children living in poverty may miss out on this important intervention.

Labour have always championed improving services for children and families, and will continue to hold this Government to account on their actions as they cut these services to the bone and provide an alternative approach that allows all children, no matter their background or circumstances, to flourish.

ECHO COLUMN: Tory Government has no consideration for children's futures

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.  Supporting children in their formative years has always been a passion of mine and an...

Sharon spoke in a Backbench Business Debate secured by Yasmin Qureshi MP on Hormone Pregnancy Tests, or also known as Primodos, which was used in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and the adverse affects it had on women and their babies. In her speech, Sharon joined cross-party calls for a judge-led public inquiry into this scandal. 

You can read the full debate here: Primodos Backbench Business Debate 14.11.17

Read Sharon's contribution to the debate pasted below:

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who opened the debate so powerfully, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), who has been a strident campaigner on this issue for more than six years and knew all about it before it had even reached my consciousness. She gave an excellent, if rather too short, speech. I thank all other Members for their passionate and thoughtful contributions; because of the time constraints, I hope they will please forgive me for not naming them all. Ultimately, thanks must go, as others have said, to Marie Lyon, the chair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests. I am sure that I speak for all of us in the House today when I say that she has the utmost respect and admiration of Members from across the House.

I want to touch on not only the science that was used to come to the conclusions in the review, but what is missing and what should have been considered before any conclusions were drawn. I will then highlight why this is a matter of injustice and why it is important that answers are found so that we can finally conclude this sad chapter.

The main sticking point of the review’s conclusions is that the expert working group found that the science did not support a causal association between HPTs during pregnancy and adverse outcomes. My focus will be on the science used and the historical documentation that we are aware of, but which seems not to have been considered—we heard about some of it in the excellent speech by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey). I will not deviate into the important argument about “possible” and “causal”, as that was covered comprehensively by other Members, including the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead.

I must make it clear from the outset that I am no scientist—I am sure that Members are aware of that—and my speech is not a critique of the integrity and expertise of the specialists involved. However, the conclusions arrived at in the report and the conversations I have had with many of those who have been involved in the campaign show a need for us to be critical of what was concluded by the expert working group. That is our duty ​as Members of Parliament, especially when it comes to what is such an important matter for so many women and their families, and also because a great deal of public funds were invested in the review over the past few years.

In the report’s consideration of the scientific detail regarding HPTs, it is argued that there are inconsistencies in the conclusions drawn from the evidence used. Take, for example, the fact that of the 15 studies that looked at heart defects, 11 favoured a link, and of five studies into limb reduction, all found a link, yet those studies were deemed to show “insufficient evidence” of the drug’s harm. Even information I requested recently and got just this week from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the lead up to this debate is at odds with the conclusions of the review, including graphs that plot birth defects against the availability of HPTs. Even to my untrained eye, they show a possible link. In one graph on all malformations, it is clear that birth defects increased during the period in which HPTs were on the market, and shortly afterwards. They began to decrease soon after HPTs were taken off the market.

Further, in the briefing I received, the MHRA said that for every 100 babies born in the general population, around two to four are expected to have a birth defect, which means that 14,000 babies a year would be expected to be born with a birth defect. That is just generally. Using those figures, the MHRA concluded that for the more than 1 million women who took HPTs, as many as 19,000 babies would be born with a birth defect, irrespective of any additional risk from HPTs. Yet let us compare Primodos to thalidomide, for instance. More than 30 million thalidomide prescriptions saw 600 children affected in the UK, which is a rate—I have had help with these numbers —of 0.002%. Some 1.2 million Primodos prescriptions were sold and 800 children were affected, which is a rate of 0.06%. That shows a much higher prevalence caused by Primodos compared with thalidomide. It also shows how little meaning a comparison of HPT adverse reactions has against today’s prevalence of birth defects in the general population, and it is hardly a defence of disproving a link.

As I have said, I am no scientific professional, but I believe that the red flags that arise when reading what the evidence says and what conclusions were drawn from it are not ones that only an expert in this field would see. This reflects the arguments that were raised last week by Dr Neil Vargesson—that the report does not provide definitive evidence that the drug was safe. As others have said, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that a link cannot be ruled out.

That leads me on to my next point, which is to touch briefly on the historical perspective and cover-up of the evidence. We have got to use that word—it is the only word we can use—as this is something that should have been considered by the expert working group.

One such example was in 1975, when the UK regulator knew of a potential five-to-one risk that the drug could cause deformities, but that evidence was apparently later destroyed. This is a running theme—I do not have time to go into it all—through the chronology of this scandal. We see multiple examples of suppressed information regarding the adverse effects and delayed notification of those effects to medical professionals who administered the drugs.​

It is also deeply concerning that this drug came into the market in 1958, with no studies on its effects at all until 1963. Five years passed before it even underwent teratogenic testing. It was still officially in circulation until 1975, but we are aware of cases of its use up until 1978. All the evidence uncovered should have been considered as part of the review. The question is: why was it not?

With any scandal such as this, it is important that those affected have the trust and confidence of any review or inquiry undertaken. In this instance, that has not been the case. The victims feel that the review has muddied the waters even more and that their views have been ignored. I have been told many harrowing stories, many of which we have heard today, and how, time and again, they have been ignored. These women did not ask to be given HPTs. Nor were they ever made aware of the effects that they could have on them or their unborn baby. They were just given them—sometimes out of a supply in a drawer on the doctor’s desk. There were no warnings, no explanations, no discussions.

A great injustice has been inflicted on these women. It is up to this House to put pressure on the Government of the day, here and now, in a fully cross-party, non-partisan way, to make things right. It is paramount that a judge-led public inquiry be conducted—one that is independent and can fully examine all the materials and documentation available and insist that all information be made public, including that which has been withheld so far. I hope that this debate helps us to take that one step further to achieving that.

In closing, may I quote the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), the then Minister for Life Sciences? In October 2014, when he instigated this review, he said that the review would

“shed light on the issue and bring the all-important closure in an era of transparency”.—[Official Report, 23 October 2014; Vol. 586, c. 1143.]

Let this debate and the following actions by the Minister ensure that what was promised in 2014 is actually achieved.

Hormone Pregnancy Tests (Primodos) Backbench Business Debate 14.12.17

Sharon spoke in a Backbench Business Debate secured by Yasmin Qureshi MP on Hormone Pregnancy Tests, or also known as Primodos, which was used in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s...

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride. Click on image to download.

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Click on above image to download.

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride - 13th Dec, 2017

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride. Click on image to download. Click on above image to download. Read more

Sharon has joined Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, in hitting out at the Government for attempting to mask the Government’s lack of a plan to invest in the North East’s transport infrastructure.

In a letter sent to all Members of Parliament on 12th December, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested that the “Northern regions” of England would receive £1,039 per head in planned transport infrastructure spending to the year 2021, which is £13 more than London’s £1,026,

But, on closer inspection, it appears that the Transport Secretary deliberately grouped the North East together with the North West to make the Government’s transport spend look higher.

An analysis of the Government’s transport spending plans, which informed the letter, reveals that planned transport spending in the North East is currently only £822, compared to £1,353 for the North West.  Instead of providing a real figure for each of the north’s separated regions, Mr Grayling’s letter simply provided an average, giving the impression that transport funding is equally spread throughout England.  The planned spend per head in Yorkshire and Humber currently sits at £726.

Commenting on the Transport Secretary’s letter, Sharon said:

“It is shocking that the Transport Secretary has fudged his figures to put a positive spin on the transport infrastructure spend for the North East. Clearly, he believed he could pull the wool over the eyes of the regions MPs and the people of the North East; however, he has failed in doing so.

“The North East deserves the right levels of transport funding to unlock much-needed economic growth and ensure that there is a level playing field when it comes to how infrastructure spending is allocated across the country, and not have a Government who mask the damning reality of their failed approach to regional growth.”

Commenting on the Transport Secretary’s letter, Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, said:

“This kind of creative accounting on the part of the Transport Secretary serves only to draw attention to the Government’s lack of planned transport spending in the North East.

“In reality, it’s clear the Government is failing to provide adequate funding for transport infrastructure in our region whilst at the same time pumping billions into London and projects like HS2.”

You can read the letter to MPs from Chris Grayling here: Letter to MPs from Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling

Planned Central Government transport capital spending per head across regions

Claimed spending by Chris Grayling by ‘regions’

Northern Regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber) £1,039 per head

Middle regions (East of England, East Midlands and West Midlands) £1,076 per head

Southern regions (London, South East and South West) £1,029 per head

Investment per person (£, 2016/17 prices)

East Midlands £946                                    

East of England £994                                

London £1,026                                          

North East £822

North West £1,353

South East £1,139

South West £851

West Midlands £1,269

Yorkshire and the Humber £726

Sharon hits out as misleading figures on transport infrastructure spending by Transport Secretary

Sharon has joined Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, in hitting out at the Government for attempting to mask the Government’s lack of a plan to invest in the North...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Nov 2017 number 99

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Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Nov 2017 number 99

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Nov-Dec 2017 number 99

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Nov 2017 number 99Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Nov 2017 number 99 Read more

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on mental health within the Autism community. In her speech, Sharon raised concerning figures regarding mental health for autistic people and what more needs to be done by the Government to address these matters. 

You can read the full debate here: Autism and Mental Health Backbench Business Debate 30.11.17

You can read Sharon's speech below

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

I congratulate the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) and others on securing this important debate and on her excellent opening speech.

I thank Autistica, the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism for the important work that they do and the support that they provide for people living with autism.This is our second debate on autism since our return from the summer recess and it is good that it has been so constructive. I also thank all other hon. Members here for their excellent and passionate speeches. The hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and for North Durham (Mr Jones), all spoke movingly, often from personal family experience or about constituents. This debate may have been short, but it has none the less been very powerful.

It is important to say that autism is not a mental health condition: it is possible to have both autism and good mental health, but that is not always the case, as we have heard. Between 70% and 80% of autistic people develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and four out of 10 children with autism have at least two mental health problems.

Adults with autism who do not have a learning disability are nine times more likely to die by suicide than the general population; those with a learning disability are still twice as likely to take their own lives. Clearly, more needs to be done to support the mental health needs of people living with autism. Reducing the health inequalities experienced by people living with autism is a priority for the NHS mandate for 2017-18, and that is welcome. Mental ill health is a major contributory factor to health inequality for people with autism. Ensuring access to appropriate mental health care is important in the fight to tackle these disparities.

However, there are too often significant barriers to accessing the right treatment. In a debate in September, we talked about waiting times for autism diagnosis—it is a scandal that those can be as long as 125 weeks. Accessing a diagnosis is the first step towards securing the support that people living with autism need, and that is also true for mental health support. We are pleased that data on autism diagnosis waiting times is going to be collected and published from April 2018; hopefully, it will help to drive an improvement in this area.

Today, I want to focus on how mental health services can be improved for people living with autism. Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams) told the Health Committee about T, a young boy with autism. As we heard from the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, T was rejected four times for treatment by child and adolescent mental health services, despite reporting suicidal thoughts and having a family history of suicide. He was rejected because he had not yet attempted to take his own life.

The Children’s Commissioner for England confirmed concerns about the issue when she stated to the Health Committee that this type of situation was now “the norm” within children’s mental health services. That is worrying generally for children’s wellbeing, but for those living with autism it is particularly so, for a number of reasons. Experiences of suicide are different in the autism community from those in the wider population; relying on certain behaviours and expectations of what someone in need of support will look like can be dangerous.

As the Children’s Commissioner put it, children with mental health problems will become adults with mental health problems very soon. We cannot continue to miss opportunities to intervene early. That means, sadly, that T’s experience is just one of many. The five year forward view for mental health recommended that NHS England develop autism-specific mental health care pathways, but there is currently no information on the timetable, the scope of the pathway or who will be leading the issue. The pathway should cover children, young people and adults on the autism spectrum. It should take into account the fact that mental health conditions can present themselves in different ways for people with autism and it should recognise that mental health treatment may need to be tailored for people with autism. I hope the Minister will reflect on that in her response. Will she tell the House when and how the pathways will be developed?

Early intervention and prevention should form the basis of our mental health services. However, too often specific issues make it difficult for people with autism to access that early support that is so vital. The first point of call for many people experiencing mental health problems is their GP; for many people with autism that can be difficult, as GP surgeries are often not autism-friendly. This is how one autistic adult described their experience:

“When anxiety is really bad I start to feel a panic attack at the prospect of just having to step out of my front door. So having to go to the GP is like having to climb Everest.”

It is important that GPs understand that every autistic person is different, and that each person may need some adjustments to be made before he or she can feel comfortable about attending the local GP’s surgery. For example, some autistic people may be hypersensitive to sound and light and may therefore need an appointment at a quieter time of day, while others may be hyposensitive and benefit from a more stimulating environment. GPs may also need to tailor the way in which they communicate with patients—for instance, using clear language, or finding ways of communicating with somebody who does not speak. To do that, GPs must be able to access detailed and accurate records about their patients’ needs. Currently GPs often do not record much information about their autistic patients, and may not even record that a person is autistic at all.

In August, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that GPs keep a set of local autism registers similar to those kept for people with learning disabilities, asthma and diabetes. Will the Minister tell us when she expects the NICE recommendations on autism GP registers to be adopted, and whether NHS England will work to ensure that the data gathered is used to inform better commissioning of autism and mental health services?

We have heard powerful accounts today from Members on both sides of the House about what happens when we get mental health treatment wrong. It is all too easy for people with autism to receive inappropriate mental health treatment, or to be blocked altogether from access to treatment. As the Government review the Mental Health Act 1983, it is important that they consider everything that has been raised in today’s debate and ensure that autistic people are supported. The shocking suicide statistics and testimonies from Members today show starkly how crucial it is that more is done on the issue, and the power is in the Minister’s hands. I hope that she has listened and will act.

Autism and Mental Health Backbench Business Debate 30.11.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on mental health within the Autism community. In her speech, Sharon raised concerning figures...

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