Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

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

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This week (June 15 to 25, 2018) marks Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Drowning Prevention Week.

In partnership with the RNLI and Swim England, RLSS UK aim to reduce the number of drowning and near-drowning incidents that occur in the UK every year, by showing people how to be safe and have fun near water.

Sadly, drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children in the UK, and over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year – equivalent to one person drowning every 20 hours.

As summer quickly approaches, it is important that children and adults are taught about the dangers of the water, especially open water, and cold water shock.

Whilst jumping in the river on a hot summer’s day might seem an attractive way to cool off, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the vice-chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Water Safety and Drowning Prevention and as a local MP, I have heard many stories of lives being tragically lost in the water; including Chloe Fowler, 14, and Tonibeth Purvis, 15, in July 2013 and Ross Irwin, a 22-year-old, who sadly drowned in the River Wear at Fatfield two days before Christmas in 2016.

A water safety throwline board was unveiled last month, close to the spot where Ross drowned at Fatfield Riverside.

It was unveiled by his father, David Irwin, of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, Sunderland City Council and RLSS.

This was the first throwline board unveiled in the North East, and I hope there will be many more boards alongside our open waterways in Washington and Sunderland and across the region very soon.

I will continue my work with the APPG on Water Safety and Drowning to urge the Government to increase water safety education in schools, and encourage them to install initiatives such as throwline boards, so that we can soon see the number of people, especially young people, drowning in the UK decline.


Sunderland Echo website >

ECHO COLUMN: water safety campaign to discuss drowning deaths

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.  This week (June 15 to 25, 2018) marks Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Drowning...

This Clean Air Day, Sharon Hodgson MP is encouraging her constituents to help improve air quality for all by ditching their cars and getting active.

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Constituents in Washington and Sunderland West are encouraged to cycle or walk when they can. This will limit their pollution contribution but also protect their heart health, as air pollution levels can be significantly higher inside a car.

As well as encouraging individual action, Sharon Hodgson MP is also calling for national action to make the UK’s air safe to breathe, especially for her constituents with heart and circulatory conditions whose health is at increased risk from air pollution.

Air pollution is now the largest environmental risk factor linked to deaths in England, with the majority of air-pollution related deaths worldwide (58%) caused by heart disease or stroke. The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) research has shed light on how health-harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) - small particles found in emissions from diesel engines and wood burning stoves- can cause damage to people’s cardiovascular health and increase the risk of potentially deadly heart attacks and stroke.

Sharon Hodgson MP attended a photo-call organised by the BHF in Parliament ahead of Clean Air Day to express her support for action that will ensure that the health of people living in Washington and Sunderland West isn’t at risk from the air they breathe.

The BHF is urging government to make this happen by adopting World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines into UK law.

The charity believes it is vital that the UK’s air quality legislation has the protection of health at its core. This will ensure that efforts to reduce air pollution achieve meaningful outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups whose lives are impacted by outdoor air pollution.

The EU air quality limits that the UK currently follows are equal to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended upper limits for nitrogen dioxide but are less stringent than the WHO’s guidelines for health-harmful pollutants.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said:

“It’s important that we have better air quality so my constituents living with a heart and circulatory condition don’t need to worry about dirty air damaging their health when they leave the house. Research has shown that even the smallest reduction can make a big difference in preventing new cases of coronary heart disease.

“I’m supporting the call for all effective action to be taken to clean up our air.”

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:

“It’s great to have the support of Sharon Hodgson MP with encouraging action to promote and protect the nation’s heart health from the effects of air pollution.

“We know that to have good heart and circulatory health, people need to be active. But BHF-funded research suggests that poor air quality can cancel out the cardiovascular benefits of exercise in vulnerable people. Further BHF-funded research has also shown that particulate matter increases the risk of potentially fatal complications for people with a heart or circulatory condition.

“To reduce this risk, we urgently need WHO limits for PM to be adopted into new air quality legislation as soon as possible.”

You can learn more about the BHF’s research and work on air pollution by visiting https://www.bhf.org.uk/airpollutionpolicy

Sharon urges constituents and government to do more on Clean Air Day for heart health

This Clean Air Day, Sharon Hodgson MP is encouraging her constituents to help improve air quality for all by ditching their cars and getting active. Constituents in Washington and Sunderland...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon opened a General Debate in the House of Commons on acquired brain injuries.

During her speech, Sharon highlighted that although more and more people are surviving and living with a brain injury, this puts increased pressure on vital services, such as Neuro-rehabilitation. Sharon also praised the work of Headway Wearside, who provide support for people living with acquired brain injuries and their families. 

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You can watch Sharon's speech here

You can read the full debate here

You can read Sharon's speech below

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

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is now in Hansard. I am sure the Minister will enjoy it in the months and years to come.

It is an honour to speak in this very important debate, and I thank the Government for allowing the time for it. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for calling for it and for his tenacity in ensuring it went ahead, against all the odds, when we all doubted it would and even though we are very pushed for time. I thank the all-party group on acquired brain injury and the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) for all their work and for their excellent campaign for better support and recognition for people living with ABI. I join the Minister in praising the work of the late and great Baroness Jowell. I, too, will never forget her last appearance in this Chamber in the Under Gallery.

Last month, along with colleagues from across the House, I was pleased to attend the rally for people with acquired brain injury at which they, along with their families, friends and carers, talked about their conditions and the services available to them. As we have heard, 1.3 million people in the UK live with the consequences of ABI, and each year approximately half a million patients attend UK emergency departments for traumatic brain injury. That is nearly 1,500 patients with traumatic brain injury attending A&E departments in the UK each day; one every minute. Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time, and all Members will have constituents living with the consequences of an ABI.

Despite the fact that so many people are living with ABI, it is little understood, which is why I am so pleased that the time has been allowed to discuss it in this place this evening. A brain injury can happen in an instant, but its effects can be devastating and last a lifetime. Thankfully, due to excellent advances in emergency and acute medicine, more and more children, young people and adults now survive and live with an ABI, but this brings its own challenges. As ever more people survive an ABI, further pressure is put on the vital services that people require.

For example, many individuals with an ABI require early and continued access to neuro-rehabilitation to optimise their recovery. The United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum says that the average cost of the initial rehabilitation programme is offset by savings in the cost of ongoing care within just 16 months and that this leads to an average saving over a lifetime in care costs of £1,475,760. That is a huge amount of money. Neuro-rehabilitation is therefore one of the most cost-effective services the NHS provides and one of the few services in medicine that result in long-term decreased costs to the economy. However, as is the case for many health conditions, the number of available beds across the UK is inadequate, service provision is variable and consequently long-term outcomes for brain injury survivors are compromised. What plans do the Government have to address those issues and improve the lives of patients living with an ABI? The UKABIF recommends a review of neuro-rehabilitation to ensure that service provision is adequate and consistent throughout the UK. Does the Minister agree that that is needed?

Many children and young people with an ABI are in education, and therefore the majority will receive most of their rehabilitation at school. Yet among education professionals there is a lack of awareness and understanding of ABI, its consequences, and its impact on learning. A pupil with an ABI may also require extra support when transitioning between primary, secondary and further education. What discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Department for Education to ensure that children with an ABI receive the support that they need throughout their journey through the education system? Will he discuss with them the inclusion of ABI in the code of practice for special educational needs co-ordinators?

Brain injuries can be difficult to detect for people who are not already aware of them, which is why all education professionals should have a minimum level of awareness and understanding of ABI. In fact, that requirement goes beyond education and into everyday life. People living with ABI are discriminated against because of the general lack of understanding of their condition. For example, earlier this year Grace Currie was escorted out of a pub on a Saturday night because the bouncers believed that she was “too drunk”. In fact, Grace, who had suffered life-changing injuries after being hit by a car in 2010, had had just one drink. The incident must have been extremely upsetting and embarrassing for Grace, and I am sure that it really knocked her confidence.

Sadly, such encounters are not rare, and the level of misunderstanding of brain injuries is high among the general public, including assessors for employment and support allowance and personal independence payments. A study conducted by Headway found that 71% and 60% of respondents felt that assessors for ESA and PIP, respectively, did not have an understanding of brain injury. Further, assessors were widely reported to lack empathy and patience, resulting in a stressful and even traumatic experience for many brain injury survivors. Many respondents also said that their medical evidence was not taken into consideration, and that the assessment location and environment were not suitable for them, despite requests made in advance. Consequently, a strong sense of frustration and anxiety was reported by brain injury survivors and their carers about the failure to recognise or respect their needs throughout the application process. Has the Minster had any discussions with his colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions about that issue? Will he look into those concerns with his colleagues, and ensure that they are properly addressed?

Living with a brain injury is difficult enough for people without their having to struggle to explain and prove their disability to anyone who lacks understanding of the condition. Each brain injury is different, which is why it is so important to raise awareness of ABIs. However, it is also important to recognise that such injuries affect not just the people directly concerned, but their families and friends. Headway aimed to highlight that during brain injury week last month for its “you, me, and brain injury” campaign. Headway found that 69% of brain injury survivors reported breakdowns in their friendships after the injury, and that 28% of relationships ended after an ABI. However, it is not all doom and gloom: 47% of survivors reported improvements in their relationships with family members. It was clear from Headway’s study that a little bit of understanding and time really can go a long way. That is the kind of service that is provided by its 127 groups and branches across the country.

Headway Wearside, whose representatives I met recently at the rally in Parliament, provides information, support and social activities for brain injury survivors, and works with the local community, relevant professionals and organisations to promote understanding of ABI. I spoke to Neil and Jimmy, who use the Headway Wearside service, and was touched when they explained that Headway had brought them together as a community, and they had formed friendships that they never expected to form. Headway Wearside does not just teach new skills, but helps people to form and develop friendships at a time when doing so might otherwise be hard. When I met with Neil and Jimmy we feared that this service might soon be lost, and I am pleased to say that it has been extended to June 2019, and I hope it will be extended still further so that patients can have access to this life-changing service. I pay tribute to Headway Wearside and all the work it does for the local community, and I will continue to support it so that this vital service can continue to support its 4,000 patients.

Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

My wife suffered exactly this problem in 1999. The eldest of my three children was sitting her exams—her highers—at school, and while that school and the education system in general supported them fantastically well, there is the issue of supporting the children, quite apart from supporting the sufferer of an injury like this. Will the hon. Lady elaborate on how we might increase the support and help for families caught up in such situations? My children got through it, but it was touch and go, and I remember these events without much happiness.

Mrs Hodgson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for sharing such a personal anecdote from his own experience. It demonstrates why it is important that we support the Headways across the country that are giving this vital support to families in the position his family was in, and he is right to mention the children of people with acquired brain injuries; they must not be forgotten in all of this.

Unfortunately, not every patient with an ABI will have access to a service like Headway Wearside. If the Minister is to take away one thing from this debate, I urge him to recognise the need for services such as Headway Wearside and the other 126 across the country, so that the more than 1 million people living with a brain injury can access the support they need and deserve.

Acquired brain injuries General Debate 18.06.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon opened a General Debate in the House of Commons on acquired brain injuries. During her speech, Sharon highlighted that although more and more...


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