Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

Recent speeches by Sharon Hodgson MP

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on Breast Cancer Drugs, specifically the drug, Kadcyla and other drugs used for treatment of breast cancer.  

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Image copyright BBC Parliament 2017

You can read Sharon's speech here: Breast Cancer Drugs Backbench Business Debate 26.01.17

Speech pasted below:

3.17 pm

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

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) for securing this debate, following the very sad news that her friend Samantha Heath, who had been receiving this life-extending treatment, had heard from NICE that it was being taken away from her. I am pleased that she was able to secure this important debate through the Backbench Business Committee.

I also thank all colleagues who have attended the debate and made excellent speeches, sharing with us their experiences and thoughts, including the hon. Members for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond), for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) and for Wycombe (Mr Baker), my hon. Friends the Members for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) and for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) and the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who spoke for the SNP. I am sure that the Minister has been given lots to think about, and I look forward to her response shortly. I also thank Breast Cancer Now for its work campaigning on this matter, along with Breast Cancer Care for its continued dedication and its support and advocacy for individuals with secondary breast cancer.

In my contribution, I will first briefly establish the documented and perceived benefits of Kadcyla, and then, building on that, discuss the broader issues around the provision of off-patent drugs, before moving on to present the problems with determining the funding of a drug based principally on its cost-effectiveness as judged by NICE.

Kadcyla’s continued funding through the cancer drugs fund in 2015 was a great success for patients and patient advocates. At the time, the value of the drug was recognised and the concession was made that, despite its high cost, its positive impact was worth the funding it needed. Yet just over a year later, the alterations to the cancer drugs fund have prevented the future funding of this drug, along with, potentially, that of a number of other secondary breast cancer drugs such as palbociclib and Perjeta—I hope that I pronounced those correctly—as it moves towards becoming a funding mechanism for under-researched but innovative drugs with cost and value as a principal driver, and away from its original principle, which was to finance drugs that were too expensive to be recommended by NICE but proved effective in treating cancer patients.

We can all agree that patients have benefited significantly since the introduction of the cancer drugs fund, but the progress that has been made in recent years in improving access to cancer drugs is now at risk. That is unsurprising, given the cash-strapped state of the national health ​service—we have discussed that in the House recently in the past few weeks—which faces pressures to provide these costly drugs that are developed by large pharmaceutical companies, and is forced to consider costs rather than clinical need. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether those concerns have been assessed, and how she plans to address them. We have heard a number of good suggestions today about how funding may be redirected.

Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)

Is not the situation made all the more poignant by the fact that since 2001, the incidence of breast cancer has been rising by 9% every year?

Mrs Hodgson

That is a very good point. It may be that more and more people are coming forward and being diagnosed, but, as my hon. Friend says, this will clearly become more of an issue, not less of an issue, in the years to come.

As we have heard today, it is estimated that Kadcyla benefits 1,200 women every year in England alone, and that on average it can increase the length of a woman’s life by six months, although reports suggest that in the case of some women that can stretch into years. Even if it is measured in months, however, the extra time is surely priceless to the women and families involved. I speak from personal experience, as I lost my mother-in-law to secondary breast cancer 20 years ago this year, when my children were very small. I know that she fought for every extra week and day in the end, and that she would have given anything for an extra six months to spend with her grandchildren. We all wanted that little bit longer for her. For all those 1,200 women, that extra time is time with their families. It means seeing their children reach perhaps one more milestone, starting school or university, getting married, or even giving them a grandchild. What is the cost of such moments, such memories, which are so precious and which help families so much with what, ultimately and inevitably, will follow?

Iain Stewart

The hon. Lady has made a powerful point. In the case of the most aggressive cancers, the period between diagnosis and death can be very short. As the hon. Lady says, any extension of life enabling women to celebrate family events, or anything else, is incredibly important, and we should not lose sight of that.

Mrs Hodgson

I agree. What price can be put on those precious months?

Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)

I have some investment in this. My own experience of breast cancer treatment over the last two years has left me passionate about the issue of prevention and early diagnosis. Will my hon. Friend join me in not just thanking the breast cancer charities—as she has already done—but calling on all Members to spread the word among all the women they know that they must learn how to examine their breasts? I learnt how to do it from a comic sketch in a television programme: that is how I diagnosed my lump. I want everyone to learn how to do it, and also to learn what they can do to help prevent breast cancer, because, although there is no magic prevention method, there are ways of reducing the risk.

Mrs Hodgson

Although we have not so far touched on prevention or early diagnosis, they are vital issues. We have discussed them in the House on many occasions, but they can never be discussed too often, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising them. Let me add that I am happy every day to see her back in this place, and doing so well.

What also stands out with Kadcyla is the reduced side effects, as we have heard, as opposed to alternative breast cancer treatments, the side effects of which can include the inducement of osteoporosis and an increased risk of blood clots. As some colleagues will, sadly, know first-hand or through experiences of family and friends or constituents, the side effects of some cancer treatments can be truly awful, and in some cases are daunting enough to prevent the acceptance of further treatment entirely. It is a common perception that women make the decision to end their treatment much earlier than planned, despite it prolonging their life sometimes. That is because they feel the suffering they are enduring as a result of the treatment is not worth the additional life it is providing to them, because it is all about the quality of that life.

Research conducted by Genentech in the United States on the side effects of Kadcyla found that less than 5% of women taking the treatment suffered any hair loss. Through my work as co-chair of the all-party group on breast cancer, I know that hair loss can be a highly traumatic experience for women undergoing cancer treatment and is one of the most discussed side effects of cancer treatment in general. Given that in this debate we are discussing the treatment of secondary breast cancer, which is ultimately a terminal disease, the best outcome we can offer through treatment is both the extension of life and the preservation of the quality of life enjoyed pre-diagnosis. Therefore, because Kadcyla causes fewer side effects, it represents a treatment that can effectively achieve not only an extension of life, but the preservation of some of that quality of life enjoyed by these women pre-diagnosis. So I look forward to hearing from the Minister about what she is doing to ensure women will benefit from this vital treatment in the future.

I will now move on to how we can better support off-patent drugs, especially for breast cancer. Drug patents typically last for 20 years—although sometimes only 10 years—and at the end of that patent there is very little incentive for the drugs to be licensed for use in another indication. These drugs are still clinically effective in many cases and can be a low-cost effective treatment, but currently the NHS has no method for making them routinely available.

Bisphosphonates are one such example of an off-patent drug that is not being made universally available to patients, despite evidence showing its effectiveness. It is estimated that, if given to the entire eligible population, this drug could prevent one in 10 breast cancer deaths. It is therefore concerning that research conducted by the UK Breast Cancer Group found that only 24% of breast cancer clinicians were offering bisphosphonates to patients. Solving this issue therefore provides an opportunity to improve breast cancer survival rates, and it is something that I hope the Minister will consider carefully.

I want to finish by discussing the cost-effectiveness of drugs. Currently NICE measures cost-effectiveness using quality-adjusted life years—QALY—and one QALY is ​equal to one year of life in perfect health. As I am sure colleagues will agree, it is almost impossible to objectively measure someone’s quality of life, and there are questions surrounding the morality of attempting to do so, as raised in NICE’s “Social value judgements” paper on the moral evaluation of drugs.

As is so often the case in these debates, a clear cause of the problem lies with how NICE approves drugs. At the last general election, Labour proposed a top-to-bottom reform of NICE, ensuring that drug acceptance and funding is determined solely by clinical need, not with cost or value considerations. This debate shows there is clearly a need to re-address these issues.

As I have already mentioned, Kadcyla patients tend to experience considerably fewer side effects, and this can potentially have a positive impact on their ability to enjoy a higher quality of life post-diagnosis. Because of practicality and cost implications, it is almost impossible for NICE to comprehensively and effectively measure this exact quality of life. However, what we can say, without a doubt, is that these individuals would suffer a lower quality of life without Kadcyla, and this, I believe, deserves more attention and value in the process of drug approval and funding.

The current funding of drugs is becoming based on the cost-effectiveness of a drug, rather than the clinical need, yet, as this debate has shown, it should not be the final deciding factor as it disregards very personal reasons for many people who rely upon drug treatments. Kadcyla has benefited many women during their time living with a terminal disease, and has now been pulled, devastatingly, out of their reach.

It is the Minister who has the levers of power to address the problems in the system which is letting these women down. Members from across this Chamber have eloquently made their case to the Minister. I hope she has listened—I am sure she has—and will give these women and their families some reassurances today.

Breast Cancer Drugs Backbench Business Debate 26.01.17

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on Breast Cancer Drugs, specifically the drug, Kadcyla and other drugs used for treatment...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate in Westminster Hall on the recently published Accelerated Access Review and the the impact that implementing these recommendations could have on issues surrounding access to drugs for people with long-term conditions, specifically cystic fibrosis and the drug, Orkambi. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Accelerated Access Review Westminster Hall Debate 13.12.16

Speech pasted below:

10.36 am

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Alan. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) for securing this important debate. I note that as he said, it is just over a year since he first brought to the House a debate on cystic fibrosis.

I appreciate all hon. Members who have attended and spoken in this debate to show their support for the cause; it is one that we must urgently get right. Members have shared many moving cases involving their constituents whose lives Orkambi could save and would certainly transform. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North mentioned Carly Jeavons and Sam and Rob, the parents of Daisy. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) spoke about Evie-May, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) mentioned her niece Maisie. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) spoke about his office manager Karen Aspinall and her son, as well as Philip and his sister Melissa, who sadly died. Philip believes that Orkambi would have helped his sister and would certainly help him, as he also suffers from cystic fibrosis. Those people believe that their lives would be transformed by Orkambi. I believe that too, and the evidence supports it, as we have heard in detail.

I thank all hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, including the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas), the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) and ​my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), for their excellent contributions, as well as the many others who have made valuable interventions. I also thank the Cystic Fibrosis Trust for its dedicated campaigning on the issue, and the 20,000 people who have been involved in its survey, in the digital debate here in Parliament, and in petitions and e-action. The concerns and the need for action are clear, and it is up to the Minister to give all those people beyond this place the answers that they need.

In my contribution, I will set out why the Opposition want to see the Government do more on innovative drugs, through case studies involving Orkambi. I will touch on issues of access to Orkambi and other drugs for those living with cystic fibrosis and expand into the recommendations of the accelerated access review, which can do much to address many of the issues involving access to new drugs.

Although it is welcome that the prescription drug Kalydeco was given the go-ahead by NHS England last week for two to five-year-olds as part of re-prioritisation, Orkambi remains an issue. There is currently a deadlock in negotiations between the pharmaceutical company Vertex, the Government and NHS England for the drug to be accessible to the 2,700 people who stand to benefit from it. As we have heard in detail today, that is all down to rejection of the drug under NICE’s appraisal system because there is a lack of long-term data. Although it is welcome that NICE recognises the treatment as effective in managing cystic fibrosis, it is clear that we desperately need a new system under which drugs can be better accessed, especially those that show that they can benefit patients. We have also heard about new data that NICE did not take into account and that would have showed 42% effectiveness.

Orkambi has been shown to halve the amount of hospitalisation of cystic fibrosis sufferers, and 96-week data published recently showed that it can help to slow lung function decline by 42%. The data are also backed up by anecdotal evidence from people who have accessed Orkambi through the compassionate use programme and are beginning to report transformations in their health—some are reporting enough improvement to come off the lung transplant list. That information is all positive. It should be made better available for consideration as part of the appraisal process; it should also form part of the negotiations between Vertex, the Government and NHS England. However, when we see a deadlock, all of that information is for naught. Thousands of people are suffering irreversible lung damage that could be stopped if the current impasse between those around the negotiating table was broken. Those who will suffer the most are stuck in the middle.

It is up to the Government to facilitate the end of the deadlock so that people can access Orkambi and see their lives transformed. One way to do that is to begin the job of implementing the recommendations set out in the accelerated access review, which the Opposition welcome. The goal of speeding up access to drugs by cutting four years off the time needed to bring new medicines to patients is something that we should all welcome; we need to see whether it can be achieved. The review has the potential to change the philosophy of the NHS in line with the five-year forward view, but also to help to maintain our global lead in life sciences. The recommendations set out in its final report have the ​potential to transform how we provide drugs and treatments, ensuring that we see innovation in drugs, diagnostic tools and healthcare developments. However, there still remain issues around thresholds for new drugs, which NICE and NHS England are currently consulting on. I understand that some associations and charities have raised concerns about that, and I hope that the Minister will update us on some of those discussions.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP)

My hon. Friend is right to be so positive about many aspects of the accelerated access review. However, as she has mentioned, there are concerns that new definitional ruts could be created by some of the terms of the review, which could lead to some patients and some promising drugs being trapped in exactly the sort of deadlock that she has described.

Mrs Hodgson

My hon. Friend is right to raise those concerns. We do not want to move into a new system that will create new unintended consequences. Perhaps the Minister will touch on that in his speech.

Although some are calling for interim solutions to help people who are stuck waiting for the accelerated access review’s recommendations to be implemented, it is also important that the Government get on with implementing those changes. The review was announced more than a year ago and was published two months ago now. It is important to remember that the transformation that we all want to see will not happen straight away, but it is still right that we keep up the pressure for the recommendations to be implemented. There are many such recommendations, and I hope that the Minister will be able to update us today on the progress on each of them. There are two in particular that illustrate what can be done to resolve the deadlock around Orkambi—the immediate establishment of an accelerated access partnership and the setting up of a new flexible strategic commercial unit.

The accelerated access partnership is one way in which, through co-ordination and collaboration across the system, we could see drugs brought on to the market more quickly to benefit patients who need access to them. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what progress has been made on its creation, especially in conjunction with the issues surrounding the deadlock on Orkambi.

It is clear that the strategic commercial unit could help to benefit those who wish to see Orkambi offered on the NHS. The unit could work with those involved in this dispute to end the current deadlock through facilitation of the flexibility and transformational change promised by the accelerated access review. That would go some way towards helping to access data on drugs such as Orkambi and getting them out to patients. There is a willingness out there for that flexibility to be brought into the system; for example, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust has offered to use the UK cystic fibrosis registry to help to provide essential data that can help to prove how effective drugs can be and what more needs to be done. We have already heard how substantial that registry is; it includes 99% of sufferers. I understand that the trust’s offer has been welcomed by all sides in the negotiations but is blocked due to the lack of progress in implementing the changes set out in the review. I hope that the Minister will give us some clarity on when the unit will ​be created and when we can see a culture shift within the system that will allow for flexibility to accept data and information that show how much effect these drugs have on people’s lives.

Dr Philippa Whitford

Does the hon. Lady share my concern about drugs for other conditions, such as sofosbuvir for hepatitis C? Even after they get NICE approval, those more expensive drugs are now being rationed at the NHS England stage. At the moment we are fighting to get through NICE, but it needs to be a smooth path all the way through.

Mrs Hodgson

The cost of drugs sometimes leads the NHS into the terrible and unfortunate situation in which rationing seems to become the norm. There can also be a postcode lottery, which is another element that we need to look at. The price of drugs really is the crux of the issue.

In conclusion, I hope that the Minister will offer some insight into the progress being made on the recommendations of the accelerated access review. The case of Orkambi can help to drive through these changes and to end this deadlock, which, as we have heard, is causing unnecessary suffering for those living with cystic fibrosis. The review has established a space for change and for patients to access new and innovative drugs and treatments. It is important that there is no stalling or delay in transforming the system, because people’s lives depend on the changes called for by the review. I am sure that the Minister will keep that in mind when he goes back to his officials.

Accelerated Access Review Westminster Hall Debate 13.12.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate in Westminster Hall on the recently published Accelerated Access Review and the the impact that implementing these recommendations could...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke during a secondary legislation committee on the approval of the Draft Consumer Rights (Enforcement and Amendments) Order 2016. This Order was to update current tobacco regulations in line with the Consumer Rights Act 2015. In her contribution, Sharon welcomed the order, along with the need to continue on the route to a smoke-free society and for the Government to finally publish their long awaited Tobacco Control Plan. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Consumer Rights (Enforcement and Amendments) Order 2016 Secondary Legislation 12.12.16

Speech pasted below:

 4.32 pm

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

The order does not change anything that is already on the statute book; it just updates enforcement provisions, following the passing of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. We therefore welcome it and will not divide on it.

Enforcing the regulations and legislation relating to the sale, packaging and marketing of tobacco is incredibly important, especially as we are continuing down the road to becoming a smoke-free society. Currently, one in five adults smokes, and although the number has halved since 1974 we still have a long way to go before we can cheer and pat ourselves on the back for achieving that vision of a healthier society.

Over the years, important work has been done to reduce the prevalence of smoking in our society, including the ban on smoking in public places introduced by the previous Labour Government and some important measures introduced under the coalition Government, such as the standardised packaging of tobacco products, which the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) spearheaded so valiantly. I know it is peculiar for a shadow Minister to be bipartisan, but the hon. Lady deserves credit for her work on this matter, especially on the previous tobacco control plan.

That brings me nicely to my last point. I cannot miss the opportunity to remind the Minister that we remain concerned that our work to reduce tobacco consumption in our society could stall if the new tobacco control plan is not introduced sooner, rather than later. I want to use this opportunity to ensure that it is at the forefront of the Minister’s mind—I am sure it is—and that she does not forget it over the Christmas break.

Consumer Rights (Enforcement and Amendments) Order 2016 Secondary Legislation 12.12.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke during a secondary legislation committee on the approval of the Draft Consumer Rights (Enforcement and Amendments) Order 2016. This Order was to...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on the progress on the implementation of the Cancer Strategy for England. In her speech, Sharon raised the need to improve preventative measures, especially around smoking and obesity, which are seen as two of the most preventable contributors to cancer, and also issues around workforce capacity and capability. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Cancer Strategy Backbench Business Debate 08.12.16

Speech pasted below:

4.33 pm

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

Like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I welcome this very important debate, which was secured by the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) and others. Although he is, uncharacteristically, not in his place, for very important reasons—we all send him and his wife our very best wishes—I want to place on the record that this House and, indeed, the whole country owe him a huge debt of gratitude for all that he does on the issue and for his sterling leadership as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on cancer in aiding our work in fighting this terrible disease.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who opened the debate. Like me and several others, he is a chair of an all-party group on cancer; his group is on pancreatic cancer. He works tirelessly on this issue, and he chaired the “Britain against cancer” conference with aplomb this week. He set the scene today so well, and his knowledge and passion shone through.

I thank all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate: the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), the hon. Members for Bosworth (David Tredinnick), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris)—the hon. Lady is also the chair of a cancer all-party group—the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) and my very good friend the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), who is also vice-chair of the all-party group on breast cancer, of which I am a co-chair. They all made excellent contributions, and each and every one has made some important points about where we need to go next with the cancer strategy.

Much of the debate has focused on the report published by the all-party group on cancer, which looked at the progress made in implementing the cancer strategy one year on from its publication. The report makes many valid points and recommendations, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister on the specifics mentioned in it. The strategy can go a long way towards helping some of the estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer and the people who are diagnosed each year with cancer. The strategy, if implemented in full, could save 30,000 more lives per year by 2020.

That should be paired with the deeply worrying news that broke at the beginning of November that more than 130,000 patients a year have not been receiving cancer treatment on time, because cancer patients did not see a cancer specialist within the required 14 days. In some areas, the problem was so severe that more than ​6,000 patients were forced to wait 104 days or more. In addition, our findings show that the Government met their 62-day target only once in the last 20 months. That should drive the Government to do more, and it is clear that we are seeing issues around the transformations already. That should not be knocked, and I am certainly not knocking it, but we must all continue to hold the Government to account where we can.

That is why in my contribution I want to touch on two areas: improvement in preventive measures that can help to reduce the occurrence of cancer, and the significant concerns that have recently been raised regarding the cancer workforce. We can all agree that prevention is key to addressing many health conditions, illnesses and diseases, and cancer is no different. As we have heard from several hon. Members in this debate, four in 10 cancers are preventable, and we should be doing much more to prevent cancers from developing, especially those that could have been prevented by lifestyle changes. Prevention was a central pillar of the cancer strategy, along with the five-year forward view.

The Minister is surely prepared for what I am going to say next, because I have said it to him often enough in my short time as the shadow Minister with responsibility for public health. It remains true, sadly. The false economy of cutting public health funding with no assessment of the ramifications of doing so on various aspects of our lives, or on other parts of the NHS and the wider health service, is seriously worrying. According to data collected by the Association of Directors of Public Health, smoking cessation services are expected to be reduced by 61% in 2016-17, with 5% of services completely decommissioned. For weight management support there will be a 52% reduction, with 12% being decommissioned. That is damning information when smoking and obesity are, as we have heard, two of the biggest preventable causes of cancer. We know that 100,000 people are dying each year from smoking-related diseases, including cancer.

It is right that the cancer strategy strongly recommended the introduction of a new tobacco control plan post haste and an ambitious plan for a smoke-free society by 2035, as has been outlined. We still have not seen the plan, despite being promised repeatedly over the last year that we would. I am sure that the Minister will give us further information on that in his response, and we all look forward to it. I hope that we see that plan sooner rather than later, and that hope has been echoed by several hon. Members from both sides of the House.

A continued delay will never be beneficial for our shared vision of a smoke-free society or for preventing cancer from happening. Another plan we have finally seen, although it has been considerably watered down, is the one for childhood obesity. After smoking, it is understood that obesity is the next biggest preventable cause of cancer. If we allow current trends to continue, there could be more than 670,000 additional cases of cancer by 2035. This completely goes against the vision set out in the cancer strategy. We saw some of the detail of the sugary drinks levy earlier this week, and it will be interesting to see how this develops in the months ahead, but I hope the Minister can outline a little bit more about what else he and his colleagues plan to do on obesity and its links to cancer.

As part of the cancer strategy, a review of the current workforce was called for so that we could fully understand the shortfalls—the areas of investment needed and the ​gaps in the training of new and existing NHS staff—and meet the ambitious and noble goals set out in the strategy. In my capacity as chair of the all-party group on ovarian cancer and co-chair of the all-party group on breast cancer, I along with colleagues from both sides of the House—some of them are in the Chamber, notably the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds, who is a vice-chair of the all-party group on breast cancer—raised this at the beginning of the year with Health Education England, which is conducting the review. In our letter, we raised the need for immediate solutions to fill the specialist gaps in our cancer workforce, but also the need for a strategic, longer-term solution to be put in place.

The issue of the cancer workforce is an incredibly important one, especially given that Cancer Research UK warned over two weeks ago that pathology services in the UK were at a tipping point, and that the Royal College of Radiologists warned earlier in the year that 25% of NHS breast screening programmes were understaffed, with 13% of consultant breast radiologist posts left vacant, a figure that has doubled since 2010. That should spur on the Department to push ahead on the workforce issues that have been raised so often with Ministers.

Only this July, organisations such as Macmillan and Cancer Research UK joined with other organisations to call for a set of principles to be taken up by the Government, including a review of the current and future workforce. The Minister should also heed the words of Dr Harpal Kumar, who during an oral evidence session for the inquiry by the all-party group on cancer into progress on the implementation of the review, said that workforce issues remained “significant and severe”.

The ageing population, which means that more and more people could be diagnosed with cancer, and the much welcomed push to improve earlier diagnosis of cancer mean that pressures on the workforce will rise if the right support is not found, especially given the projection that 500,000 Britons will be diagnosed with cancer by 2035. That should remain at the forefront of the Minister’s mind, and in the minds of his officials and those who deal with workforce capacity.

It is clear that investment is failing to keep up with demand. That was raised in the cancer strategy, which called on NHS England to invest to unlock the extra capacity we need to meet the higher levels of cancer testing. The Opposition support the calls made only a few short months ago by the national cancer advisory group for NHS England’s cancer transformation board to prioritise a focus on the cancer workforce in the coming months. I hope the Minister will ensure that that happens, and that when we come back from the Christmas recess, we will start to see the much needed progress that has been called for.

In conclusion, the work that has started on the transformative programme is to be welcomed. It is a large task to undertake, yet the Government will not be allowed to sit back; I know that they and the Minister will not do so. It is up to all of us in this House, along with many people outside this place, to continue to do all we can to hold the Minister and the Government to account on what are such important and personal matters for all of us who have been affected by cancer, be it ​personally or through family and friends. We must all be critical friends in this drive to fight off cancer once and for all. We all agree that cancer should be at the top of our list of health priorities. It is so destructive, and, very sadly, it will affect us all in some way. We must ensure that we get this right, because we cannot afford to get it wrong.

Cancer Strategy Backbench Business Debate 08.12.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on the progress on the implementation of the Cancer Strategy for England. In her speech, Sharon raised the need...

As part of her long-standing campaigns against ticket touting and on improving access to free school meals, Sharon spoke during the Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill on two amendments, which would ban the misuse of bots when buying tickets and also on sharing data between local authorities and schools to improve the take-up of free school meals, which have been proven to be beneficial to a child's life. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill 28.11.16

Speech pasted below:

I want to speak for my two or three minutes in support of new clause 19 and new clause 31. I welcome these two new clauses after my many years of campaigning to put fans first and to improve access to free school meals.

Hungry children struggle to learn in school, and they fall behind their peers. That is why it is important that we improve the provision that is on offer and the access to it, and new clause 19 will do just that. This policy proposal was first introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) as a ten-minute rule Bill earlier this year. I have fully supported this policy change, and I congratulate my hon. Friends on the Front Bench on bringing it forward. It is estimated that having a child on free school meals can save a family up to £400 a year. A school will net £1,320 a year for each child who is currently on free school meals or who has been in receipt of free school meals in the previous five years. The proposed changes are simple and have been tried and tested by Calderdale Council and Greenwich Council, which have both used data sharing to improve the take-up of free school meals and, in turn, pupil premium in their boroughs.

I want to speak briefly to new clause 31. I thoroughly welcome this new clause, which has been introduced by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on behalf of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee after its excellent short inquiry into bots and ticket touting a few weeks ago—I had the pleasure, as I said earlier, of witnessing it at first hand—following the amendment originally tabled by the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) and supported by the Labour Front-Bench team and me. The new clause would take us one step closer to sorting the market out, but it is not a silver bullet; far from it. Alongside the new clause, we need the enforcement of existing legislation, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015, and the implementation of the Waterson review recommendations on the secondary ticketing market.

Over the years, like the Minister and the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty, I have heard about examples—I have experienced it myself—of people trying to buy tickets but finding that they were already sold out, and within minutes finding those tickets up on the secondary market. I never relented; I refused to buy any tickets from touts, but one can only deduce that there is a serious issue about how the tickets get on to the secondary market so quickly. One way in which they do so is definitely through the use of bots. Fans are not getting a fair crack at getting tickets, just as the Minister and other Members have not had a fair crack at getting them.

In the past 18 months, there has been a massive escalation in the number of tickets harvested by the aggressive software used by touts, with these attacks becoming more and more sophisticated. Attacks appear to emanate from all over the world, but the majority of ​attacks on ticketing systems are orchestrated by UK-based and UK-resident touts. Some 30% to 50% of tickets for high-demand events are harvested by aggressive software and immediately placed for resale on viagogo, GetMeIn!, StubHub and Seatwave, despite the best efforts of the industry, which has tried to police itself and to bring in technical solutions. The industry has tried to sell tickets through fan clubs, but even those are attacked. Where tickets are sold by ballot, there are ballot bots. Where fan club registration is required, there are email-generating bots that flood systems with thousands of false identities. There is not one single way to offer tickets for sale to the public for which there is not already a bot out there that will attack the system.

The situation is deteriorating. Primary ticket sites have to detect an attack, examine the data, identify the software used, reverse engineer it and develop measures to prevent a further attack. That process can take months. In the meantime, a tout can simply pay a coder overseas a few hundred pounds to develop a new bot to circumvent the new security features. Bots can be coded to attack a specific ticketing system in as little as a day.

Although legislation is in place in the form of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which has broad applications that could be used to address bots, it is 25 years old and it is yet to be tested in this regard. This is an arms race that the primary ticket sellers simply cannot win. The secondary market has already shown its blatant disregard of civil remedy legislation, such as the amendment to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which is flouted daily. The only effective deterrent is a very clear criminal offence, with appropriate punishment on conviction, and that would be provided by new clause 31.

Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill 28.11.16

As part of her long-standing campaigns against ticket touting and on improving access to free school meals, Sharon spoke during the Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill on two...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on reducing health inequalities and the need for the Government to take action to address variations in health outcomes across the country. In her speech, she raised two specific interventions that the Government could go on: childhood obesity and publication of the Tobacco Control Plan. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Reducing Health Inequalities Backbench Business Debate 24.11.16

Speech pasted below:

4.37 pm

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

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the Chamber for a second time today, on yet another important topic. This time we are debating health inequalities and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate to take place following the application by the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and other hon. Members across the House. The hon. Lady made an excellent speech, and we are very grateful to her for that. I also want to thank other hon. Members across ​the House for their excellent contributions today. I especially want to highlight the excellent speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) and my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier).

I enjoyed the speeches by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile)—a fellow member of the all-party parliamentary group on basketball—and by the hon. Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup), who made an excellent speech on obesity and childhood obesity. I also enjoyed the speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss). As she knows, I agree with most of what she says, especially about breastfeeding. We have had an excellent debate, with excellent contributions all round.

When it comes to addressing health inequalities, there are many conversations about the need for systemic change to reverse the trends. However, in my contribution today I want to look at tangible specifics that the Minister can get to work on in her remit as Minister for Public Health. I will do that by looking at the current state of health inequality and then the two key areas of smoking and childhood obesity and what more can be done to address those signifiers. I will then move on to the cuts to public health grants, which are exacerbating the situation.

The most recent intervention on health inequality came from the Prime Minister, who used her first speech on the steps of Downing Street to highlight that,

“if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others.”

We have heard clear examples of that from constituencies around the country. That welcome intervention set the tone of her Government’s serious work to address health inequalities.

It is hard not to agree when the facts speak for themselves. Two indicators from the most recent public health outcomes data show that London and the south-east have the highest life expectancy while the north-east and north-west have the lowest. The same pattern appears when looking at excess weight in adults, about which we have also heard today. Rotherham comes out the highest at 76.2% and Camden is the lowest at 46.5%. Those figures prove what we all know to be true: people living in more deprived parts of the country do not live as long as those in more affluent areas. Contributors to ill health such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption—which we heard about from the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce)—and obesity are more prevalent in deprived areas.

On a moral level, it is important for the Government to address such issues, so that we can improve our nation’s health, but there is also an economic argument to be made. If we have an unhealthy population, we will not be as productive. In England, the cost of treating illnesses and diseases arising from health inequalities has been estimated at £5.5 billion a year. As for productivity, ill health among working-age people means a loss to industry of £31 billion to £33 billion each year. Those two facts must spur the Government into action, but there are many issues to tackle and multiple ways for the Government to address them. Many such issues ​have been raised in the debate but, as I said, I will examine two key areas that the Minister must get right: smoking cessation and childhood obesity.

My first outing as shadow Public Health Minister was to debate the prevalence of tobacco products in our communities and the need for the Government to bring forward the new tobacco control plan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Nicola Blackwood)

indicated assent.

Mrs Hodgson

The Minister is nodding, so she remembers it well. The Government need to set out key actions to work towards a smoke-free society. Smoking is strongly linked to deprivation and has major impacts on the health of those who do smoke, such as being more prone to lung cancer and COPD and facing higher mortality rates. If we look at that by region, which I have already established is a factor in health inequality, smoking levels are higher in the north-east at 19.9% compared with the lowest in the south-east at 16.6%. When looking at smoking by socioeconomic status, we find that smoking rate in professional and managerial jobs is less than half that in routine and manual socioeconomic groups, at 12% and 28% respectively.

In the debate held just over a month ago, the Minister was pushed on when the new tobacco control plan would be published. Concerns have been raised by various charities, including ASH, Fresh NE and the British Lung Foundation, about how the delay could jeopardise the work already done. Sadly, the Minister evaded my specific question back then, so I will ask her the same thing again: when can we expect the new plan? Will it be this year or next year? The plan will not only go a long way to work towards a smoke-free society, but help to reduce health inequalities in deprived areas. The Minister can surely understand that and the need to come forth with the plans.

The Minister knows that I also take a keen interest in childhood obesity. She has said repeatedly that the publication of the childhood obesity plan was the start of the conversation. Childhood obesity is the issue on everyone’s lips right now as it is the biggest public health crisis facing the country. I will not repeat the stats we all know about the number of children who start school obese and the number who leave obese—they are shocking. Many organisations and individuals, including Cancer Research UK, the Children’s Food Trust and Jamie Oliver, have made clear their dismay at the 13-page document that was snuck out in the summer and have said that it did not go far enough. Incidentally, it came out on the same day as the A-level results, so it looked like it was being hidden.

Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS an estimated £5.1 billion a year, and obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. It is also connected to other long-term conditions such as arthritis and type 2 diabetes. When obesity is linked with socioeconomic status, we see real concern that the plan we have before us will not go far enough to reverse health inequality. National child measurement data show that obesity among children has risen, and based on current trends there could be about 670,000 additional cases of obesity by 2035, with 60% of boys aged five ​to 11 in deprived communities being either overweight or obese. There is a real need for the Government to come to terms with the fact that many believe the current plan is a squandered opportunity and a lot more must be done. That is why I hope the Minister will be constructive in her reply to this debate, giving us reassurances that move us on from this being “only the start”. At the end of her speech, the hon. Member for Erewash gave us a list of four or five items that we could start straightaway, which would certainly take us further on.

The Government have stalled or not gone far enough on the plans I have mentioned, but there is also deep concern that the perverse and damaging cuts to public health spending will widen the health inequality gap. The Minister knows the numbers that I have cited to her previously, but I will cite them again, even after my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle has done so. We are greatly concerned about the £200 million cut to local public health spending following last year’s Budget, which was followed by the average real-terms cut of 3.9% each year to 2020-21 in last year’s autumn statement. I want to add some further concerns that go beyond those raised by Labour.

Concerns were identified in a survey by the Association of Directors of Public Health, which found that 75% of its members were worried that cuts to public health funding would threaten work on tackling health inequalities. Those concerns are backed up by further evidence published by the ADPH, which found that local authorities are planning cuts across a wide range of public health services, because of central Government cuts. For example, smoking cessation services saw a 34% reduction in 2015-16, and that will become 61% in 2016-17, with 5% of services being decommissioned. That is seen across the board among local public health services and will be detrimental to reversing health inequalities. For the Government to fail to realise that cutting from this important budget will not help the overall vision on health inequality, set out by the Prime Minister earlier this year, is deeply worrying and shows a distinct lack of joined-up thinking around this issue.

In conclusion, health inequality is a serious issue that we cannot ignore or let the Government get wrong, as the health of our nation is so important, not only in a moral sense, but economically. I know the Minister will fully agree with the Prime Minister’s statement from earlier this year—there is no second-guessing that, as we all do—but we need radical proposals that get to the bottom of this persistent issue, which blights the lives of so many people living in our most deprived communities. We all want to see a healthier population, where nobody’s health is determined by factors outside their control, and we must all work together to get to the point where it is no longer the case that the postcode where somebody is born or lives determines how long they will live or how healthily they will live that life.

Reducing Health Inequalities Backbench Business Debate 24.11.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on reducing health inequalities and the need for the Government to take action to address variations in health outcomes...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on contaminated blood and blood products, secured by Diane Johnson, MP for Hull North, who has led on this issue for a number of years. In her speech, Sharon spoke about the support given to those affected by this scandal under the new system and those missed out, the involvement of private for-profit companies in the administering of payments, and also the need for an independent Hillsborough-style panel.

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Contaminated Blood and Blood Products Backbench Business Debate 24.11.16

Speech pasted below:

1.27 pm

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

It is a pleasure to speak in such an important debate. I want, first and foremost, to thoroughly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who for many years now has championed and pushed on this vital matter. Her work cannot and must not go unnoticed or unrecognised. I am sure people across the country, and indeed across the House, will want to join in thanking her.

The experiences of those men and women affected by this awful scandal should never be out of our minds as we continue to do all that we can to support them. Doing all we can for them is paramount, knowing full well that whatever we do will not be enough to give them back their life or a life without suffering or pain. HIV and hepatitis are terrible conditions. Someone living with HIV or hepatitis will face fears of developing other conditions and have to face the stigma that comes with these conditions. This debate is welcome, as it is the first time the House has had the chance to debate the new scheme since it was announced and to continue to hold the Government to account to do more. It is important that we now have the chance to discuss that in a considered and comprehensive manner.

In my contribution, I want to touch upon three areas: first, the current funding system in England; secondly, the involvement of private companies to administer support to beneficiaries; and, thirdly, the need for an independent Hillsborough-style panel to recognise the failures of the system that these people have had to live with.

It was announced earlier in the year that a new financial arrangements system would be introduced, and a public consultation was conducted to get views ​and opinions on how that would take shape. Although there has been a welcome, if somewhat modest, increase in the annual payment to people with HIV, hepatitis C at stage 2 and those who are co-infected, as well as the first guaranteed ongoing payments for people with stage 1 hepatitis C, it is concerning that these payments fall short of what has been drawn up in Scotland.

Also, the current English system makes no mention of support for people who have been cleared of hepatitis C prior to the chronic stage but who, despite fighting off the disease, may still exhibit symptoms ranging from fatigue to mental health issues and even diabetes. These people have never been entitled to any support, and continue to get none. The scheme does not include support for those infected with other viruses, such as hepatitis B, D or E, and for those people it has meant continuous monitoring of their liver function. It is estimated that that group is extremely small and, according to the Haemophilia Society, would be a minimal cost to the Department of Health.

We find that the new scheme does little or nothing for bereaved partners, parents or children of those who have sadly died from diseases contracted through the contaminated blood scandal. The new system should have gone a long way to supporting those various groups within the affected community. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance that those concerns have been noted, and that she will go away and look into what more can be done to help the people I have just mentioned.

There are also concerns regarding the discretionary payments, which, thankfully, were saved, despite it being announced in the consultation earlier this year that they could be scrapped. That should be welcomed, but there is a clear concern that the discretionary support will not go far enough to improve the support on offer for those with HIV or those who are co-infected. The Government need to consider that impact and what more they plan to do. It is worrying that the Government have yet to make clear the minimum and maximum discretionary support that people will be able to receive.

I understand that the Reference Group on Infected Blood is currently considering that policy and that we will hear more from it in the new year, but would it not be worth while for the Minister to give us some indication now, so that those who will depend on this money in the years to come can have some reassurance, especially as we enter the festive period? There are many questions to be answered. That is why I hope that in the time allowed the Minister will give us in the House and those who will be watching the debate the reassurances that they need.

The new scheme will replace the current system so that the five trusts across the country that administer the payments are amalgamated into one, and I know that that has been welcomed. However, there is one very concerning point that was so eloquently put by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North when she opened the debate and which needs to be addressed by the Minister. I refer to the potential involvement of a private sector company, such as Atos or Capita, which both bid in the tender process. The Minister no doubt expects me to make the typical party political point, but I am not going to do that.​

That potential involvement was never included in any talks with the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and blood contamination, no consultation was held with the affected community, and there was no mention of it in the Department’s response to the survey, yet we see it happening now. The concern here is that the many thousands of people affected by the mistake—which, it must be remembered, was often made by US private companies—feel aggrieved at the potential involvement of a profit-making private company. That resentment is justified, especially as it was the mistake of a private company that put them in their current situation. There should be no profit making when it comes to compensating for the failures of the private sector. That was highlighted well by my hon. Friend in her speech and was also touched on by the former Health Minister, the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt).

The issue was highlighted too by the APPG’s survey of nearly 1,000 people affected by the scandal, who clearly had concerns about the involvement of a profit-making private company. It is important that those affected have their say in the administration of the payments and support. I would therefore be interested to hear the Minister’s thoughts on their involvement, as we have seen in Scotland, where there has been an alternative scheme operator which includes beneficiary involvement. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why private involvement is now being considered, but was never consulted upon.

My final point is about co-ordinating an independent panel, such as in the case of Hillsborough. The Prime Minister promised in September that she would keep an open mind about an independent panel, but she has, sadly, quashed the idea. The rationale given is that we have had two public inquiries into this matter already, by Lord Archer and Lord Penrose. That may be the case, but it is important that we consider the approach to helping people to get the justice they deserve, especially as it is clear that neither of the inquiries met the needs of the affected community. The two inquiries were narrow in their focus and were not about apportioning blame. The affected community is not calling for that. What it is calling for, which is strongly supported by the Opposition, is a truth and reconciliation process and public disclosure of the failures, which those affected rightly deserve.

Mark Durkan

On the need for some vehicle of inquiry into the background, in an intervention, I pointed out that, in the Irish Republic, the right to compensation was established in 1995. There was an Act in 1997, but it was following a tribunal of inquiry that the state admitted liability, so there was further legislation in 2002. The liability of the Irish state rested on the fact that the tribunal found that the state knew that there was a risk and carried it because the UK and others were prepared to carry the same risk.

Mrs Hodgson

I am grateful for that important intervention, which emphasises why we need an inquiry into issues such as the one that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

I am sure the Minister can understand the concerns across the House and out in the community among the people affected and their families. Before she replies, I ask her not to adopt the same language as that used by the Prime Minister, who attributed the lack of support ​for an independent panel to the delay in the introduction of a support system. An independent panel with clearly defined terms of reference would not impede the development and implementation of the new system. I hope the Minister will keep that in mind when she responds, and recognise how important it is for those affected to get the reconciliation for which they have fought so long.

The Government must be committed for reforming the system and listening—must be commended, rather, for reforming the system and listening. I know they are committed to that. However, this is such an important issue that we must get it right, and once more I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North for her steadfast campaigning on this issue over many years. I am sure the community will also recognise that fact. Those people who have had their lives marked so significantly by the failures of the past should rightly be compensated and respected. Those who have died because of that serious mistake, those who are still living with the repercussions of the mistake, and those who have thankfully fought it off but still live with the impact of it all deserve respect and dignity, and I hope that in her reply the Minister will give them just that.

Contaminated Blood and Blood Products Backbench Business Debate 24.11.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate on contaminated blood and blood products, secured by Diane Johnson, MP for Hull North, who has led...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a debate on diabetes technologies and what more needs to be done to support those living with diabetes. 

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Diabetes Technologies Westminster Hall Debate 23.11.16

Speech pasted below:

2.58 pm

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship today, Mrs Gillan.

I welcome today’s timely debate on access to diabetes technology, which falls in Diabetes Awareness Month. I congratulate the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) on securing this important debate and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr Reed), who is not present today, for all his campaigning, work and efforts on the subject over the years.

I also thank the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who spoke for the Scottish National party, and I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) on his excellent contribution on young people with type 1 diabetes, and for highlighting the worrying danger of abuse by young people who skip insulin in order to lose weight. I had heard of that before, but I am grateful that he brought it to our attention today, so that the Minister may respond. As my right hon. Friend said, it is often due to the pressures of society and body shaming and it can, sadly, often be fatal. It is yet another pressure on these young people: aside from having the diabetes diagnosis in the first place, it is something else that they have to deal with.

I also want to disclose from the off that sadly I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic just a year ago, but through getting control of my diet and achieving weight loss, which is still ongoing, my diabetes is thankfully very well under control. This debate is therefore very close to my heart.

More than 4 million people and counting in the UK are now living with diagnosed diabetes. Some 400,000 live with type 1 diabetes, and 29,000 of those are children. I am hopeful that in the future, artificial pancreas technology, which we have heard about today, will be effective, safe and accessible to patients, and that eventually, thanks to important research undertaken by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetes UK and others, we will create a world without diabetes.

However, until that time comes, it is paramount that we do all we can to support adults and children living with the condition. Patients need accessible and high-quality education and support, and access to technology that ​will allow them to manage their condition and to achieve positive outcomes. Not only will that have a positive effect upon the lives of those 4 million people, especially including children, but it could also reduce NHS spend on diabetes-related complications.

There have been significant advances and improvements in care for people living with diabetes over the last 15 years or so, but it would be an enormous mistake for us to believe that the job was done. It is far from done and a significant amount of work needs to be undertaken to improve diabetes outcomes. That is because more than 24,000 people a year currently still die from a complication or condition related to diabetes, and many more will encounter life-altering, non-fatal complications. It is worth noting that diabetes-related complications account for a staggering 80% of the £10 billion annual NHS spend on diabetes.

Worryingly, there is also a regional dimension to the challenges presented in relation to positive diabetes outcomes. According to the national diabetes audit 2012-13, diabetes education courses are not being commissioned for people in more than a third of areas in England. Moreover, gateway treatment for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is undertaken through primary care. However, with a GP shortfall of 40% across the north of England—my region—it is clear that accessibility is limited in certain parts of the country. Meanwhile, some CCGs have particularly large concentrations of people with type 2 diabetes and, it has to be said, there are correlations between those areas and socioeconomic disadvantage. The Government might well approach funding allocations with that in mind.

However, the issue we are discussing, which must be considered alongside the aforementioned points, is supporting patients to access technologies easily that will better help them to manage their condition, from insulin pumps to continuous glucose monitors, to flash glucose meters—a lot of them were spoken about by the hon. Member for St Ives. The technologies to which I refer make monitoring blood glucose more convenient for people than a standard blood glucose meter does, and in turn, those technologies can transform peoples’ lives. Continuous glucose monitors—CGMs—such as the Dexcom device, and flash glucose meters, such as the Abbott FreeStyle Libre device, are considered by many to be a less invasive technique than blood glucose meters for measuring blood glucose. They work 24 hours a day and CGMs can include alarms to indicate when glucose levels are too high. That is particularly important for people who do not know that they are experiencing hypoglycaemia, and children who may be unable yet to communicate it.

It is critical that the House understands the importance of blood glucose readings for people living with diabetes—both types—but it is of essential importance for people living with type 1. With type 2 patients, as I have found, blood glucose is usually monitored and controlled over a long period of time and the scope for immediate blood glucose correction is limited. For people living with type 1—people whose control depends upon the use of insulin delivered through an injection or a pump—accurate, real-time data is essential for blood glucose control.

To put it simply: better blood glucose control will result in better outcomes for people living with type 1 or type 2. It will relieve significant pressure on the NHS ​and result in a significant and positive long-term financial gain. Access to CGMs and flash glucose meters is limited on the NHS, and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines do not recommend that CGMs are offered routinely even to adults with type 1 diabetes, but funding should be considered in a small number of specified circumstances. Meanwhile, children and young people must either have frequent severe hypoglycaemia, impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia associated with adverse consequences, or the inability to recognise or communicate about symptoms of hypoglycaemia in order to be eligible for a CGM at the moment.

The guidelines, which can be difficult for health professionals, adult patients, and parents alike to navigate, are an obstacle to accessing life-changing technologies for people living with diabetes. As such, I hope that the Government will take steps to encourage CCGs to increase the take-up of CGMs—I apologise for all the acronyms—and flash glucose meters, and that eventually work will be undertaken, in conjunction with NICE, to look at increasing and improving access to diabetes technologies at a faster rate than patients currently experience.

The running cost of a CGM is around £3,000 to £4,000 a year, whereas a flash glucose meter costs around £1,300 a year. That represents a significant personal cost to many of those who are unable to access these technologies through their CCG, and who therefore have little choice but to self-fund. Lots of parents do this for their children especially. In considering the financial impact of diabetes, we must recognise that diabetic technologies should not be available only to those who can afford to self-fund. Allowing the continuation of the disparity between people with diabetes who can afford to make use of life-changing technologies and those who cannot undermines the principle of a truly national health service.

It is also important to consider that investment in the new technologies could save the NHS vast amounts in the long term. That is because they can help to avoid severe night-time hypos, and severe hypos cost the NHS £13 million a year. In addition, as I have mentioned, diabetes-related complications account for 80% of the total NHS spend on diabetes, and supporting patients to better manage their condition through access to CGMs and flash glucose meters will inevitably seek to reduce that cost. That is a significant saving, before we even begin considering the impact of hypoglycaemia on the UK economy as a whole.

Finally, during Prime Minister’s questions, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, the Prime Minister stated:

“There are many youngsters out there, from tiny tots to teenagers, living with type 1 diabetes. It is important that we send a message to them that their future is not limited: they can do whatever they want.”—[Official Report, 20 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 821-22.]

I am sure that all of us in the Chamber today very much welcome her comments. I hope that they represent a forthcoming commitment by the Government to improve access to life-changing technologies for adults and children to reduce any obstacles that they might otherwise face.

I ask the Government to commit to working to improve access to diabetes management education, support, and access to emerging technologies. We must ensure that emerging technologies reach the public in a timely ​manner, and that innovation, to make them even more user-friendly and to encourage take-up, is also supported and encouraged by the Government.

A national focus on access to diabetes technologies has its roots not only in clinical, but in financial arguments, as well having national support. So far, more than 26,000 people, from every single constituency in the UK, have signed a petition initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland calling for CGMs to be made available as a right on the NHS to adults and children living with type 1 diabetes. Moreover, 25 cross-party colleagues have signed an early-day motion in a similar vein. I extend my support to those cross-party calls to ensure that such technologies become accessible to adults and children living with diabetes—especially type 1—so as, ultimately, to improve the lives of those who need those technologies.

Diabetes Technologies Westminster Hall Debate 23.11.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a debate on diabetes technologies and what more needs to be done to support those living with diabetes.  You can read...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Self-Care. In her speech, Sharon raised the need to ensure self care was fully supported by the Government o help reduce pressures on the wider NHS and health services and also the impact of cuts to public health funding will have on self care.

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP Self Care Westminster Hall Debate 22.11.16

Speech pasted below:

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I welcome this important debate and the fact that it has been secured during Self Care Week - 

Sir Kevin Barron

Just after it.

Mrs Hodgson

Just after Self Care Week. I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) for securing this debate and for his excellent speech, which shows his deep knowledge of and passion for all matters relating to the health of our nation, especially with regard to preventive health measures. I thank him for that.

This debate is especially important, as it is the first time we have had a dedicated debate on self-care in a very long time. We heard an excellent contribution from the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day). Before we hear from the Minister, I want to look at the issue of self-care and the wider picture of preventive measures through the lens of the cultural shift in the NHS away from care and repair to prevention and wellbeing promotion. I will also look at how aspects of current Government policy, such as the cuts to public health funding—I know I keep banging on about that, but it is important—is detrimental to our shared vision for an improved NHS and to achieving a healthier nation.

When NHS England’s “Five Year Forward View” was published just over two years ago, we were promised a radical upgrade in prevention and public health. That belief in reshaping the approach of the NHS and our health services away from a sickness alleviation service towards a wellbeing service that promotes healthier lifestyles choices, improved wellbeing and the prevention of ill health through behavioural change is supported across the NHS and in wider society.​

That shift is paramount when we see the NHS in a state of crisis, with longer A&E waiting times and GP appointments becoming harder and harder to come by. One in four patients wait at least a week to see their GP. My husband had to wait three weeks to see the GP because it was not an emergency, but he thought it was an emergency; sometimes we do not know, and it is up to the doctor to decide what is important and what is not.

Some parts of the NHS are at crisis point. That is not a party political point at all; it is supported by health organisations such as the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, which professed this time last year that the NHS was at risk of a “catastrophic collapse”. If the worrying trends in waiting times that I have described are ever to be reversed and we are to save the NHS, we need to have a wholesale rethink about the way we approach health policy. Prevention must be the key, and self-care should be a central part of that reconsidered approach.

Self-care is about empowering people and patients to maintain their own health through informed lifestyle choices, better awareness of symptoms and better awareness of when it is important to seek professional advice—for example, for possible cancer symptoms, where early diagnosis is absolutely crucial and a matter of life and death—and when an ailment can be treated by someone themselves in the appropriate manner by talking to their community pharmacist, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley described on the occasion of a family holiday. With improved confidence, people can take control of their own health or long-term conditions much better and make decisions that are far better for the NHS.

It is completely understandable that when we are unsure about the cause of symptoms or the best course of treatment or care, our first port of call is the NHS. However, being more aware of how we can treat ourselves and having preventive practices in place that reduce the prevalence of ill health will help go some way towards pulling the NHS back from the brink. The NHS is a trusted bastion, but sadly we are seeing more and more people accessing NHS services when there is no need and when a chat to one of our excellent community pharmacists would have sufficed—for example, in the cases we have heard about today of splinters, paper cuts, hiccups or broken nails. A bit of common sense is all that is needed, certainly not a trip to A&E.

In 2014, A&E departments across the country dealt with 3.7 million visits for self-treatable conditions such as those mentioned today, as well as the common cold, flu or muscle pain, combined with 52 million visits to the GP for similar conditions. It is no wonder people cannot get an appointment when some people are going to see their GP for that sort of thing. That has an estimated cost to the NHS of more than £10 billion over the past five years, which is not a small or insignificant amount of money.

Self-care is a crucial preventive measure that must be developed further to ensure that the NHS is as resilient as possible and can respond in more effective and meaningful ways to the nation’s health. With all that in mind, it is deeply worrying that the vision set out in the “Five Year Forward View” has progressed little or not at all. That is seen most clearly through the Making Every Contact Count initiative, which aims to make NHS staff members an important part of boosting ​awareness of healthy living, rather than only administering healthcare to the sick. It is a fantastic initiative. In theory, that strategy can go far in addressing issues around lifestyle choices such as smoking, drugs, diet and alcohol consumption by just adding a one or two-minute conversation when a healthcare professional already has someone in front of them.

It is worrying that the progress and roll-out of that scheme is patchy, despite there being lots of good practice across the country, such as the social prescribing service in Rotherham that my right hon. Friend talked about. Where such system change is flourishing and showing that it can support a reduction in pressures on NHS services such as A&E and GP practices, it should be encouraged, and the roll-out should be far more substantial.

I hope the Minister can give us some reassurance on three key asks for the Make Every Contact Count initiative: first, that we see progress made on the scheme in the new year, as promised by Professor Fenton from Public Health England during the second oral evidence session for the APPG on primary care and public health inquiry; secondly, that best practice is made more readily available to improve provision across the country through the Self Care Forum’s database of best practice; and thirdly, that he commits to ensuring CCGs prioritise implementation of the scheme in their local areas and that training is provided for staff, to equip them to provide consistent self-care messaging.

It should not go without saying that there are examples across the country that show the innovative and positive impacts of improving self-care, such as a scheme in my own neck of the woods in South Tyneside—the neighbouring borough to my own—where a borough-wide conversation has been developed that shifts away from asking, “How can I help you?” and instead asks, “How can I help you to help yourself?”

Those initiatives need funding and encouraging from Government to succeed. However, what we are currently seeing has been described as a frustrating and perverse approach to preventive measures, with cuts to public health funding of £200 million in last year’s Budget, along with an average real-terms cut of 3.9% each year to 2021, announced in last year’s autumn statement. Hopefully tomorrow we will see our new Chancellor go some way to rectifying and reversing that; we can live in hope, unless the Minister has some insight into what the Chancellor will announce. We will keep our fingers crossed.

The Minister is well aware of my opinion on those cuts, because we discuss them every time we meet, and the need to rethink the whole approach, but it is not only me saying this. Only recently, the Health Committee, chaired by the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston)—who I am sure would have been here today if not for the health debate coming up in the Chamber very soon—uncovered serious concerns about the finances and funding of the NHS and public health. In a letter to the Health Secretary in October, the Committee said:

“All the indicators suggest that demand is continuing to grow and that we need to go further on prevention”.

I could not agree more. These cuts are a false economy and are exacerbating the situation within our health services. We are seeing funding directed to our crisis-ridden A&E departments, which are having to crisis-manage failures that could have been addressed a lot sooner.​

The Minister needs fully to understand that to make cuts to one part of our health service without considering the impact on other parts is leading us down the road to rack and ruin. To give him some understanding of the cuts, I suggest that he look at the Health Committee report “Public health post-2013”. The Select Committee does good work, but the Chair is not here to hear me highlight all this work. The report that I have just mentioned highlights research by the Association of Directors of Public Health, which found that local authorities are planning deep cuts to public health services due to the cuts coming from central Government to local authorities. It shows a marked rise for 2016-17 compared with 2015-16.

The Government need to have a wholesale rethink of the funding of the NHS and public health services that sees a redirection to prevention, which will go some way towards addressing many of the problems in our health service that are now being documented weekly. I hope that the Minister takes some time in his response to consider the points that I have raised in relation to public health funding and how current actions are failing the vision of the five year forward view and the health of our nation. Self-care needs properly to be funded and supported to be innovative, so that we ensure that the continuing crisis facing the NHS can be reversed. We cannot continue as we are, because our NHS is too precious to let it fail. The health of the nation needs to be protected, where possible, to enable people to lead long, happy and fulfilling lives.

Self-Care Westminster Hall Debate 22.11.16

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Self-Care. In her speech, Sharon raised the need to ensure self care was fully supported by the Government...

arthrits_debate.jpg

Sharon speaking in the Arthritis Awareness Week Westminster Hall Debate 20.10.16

Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Arthritis Awareness Week. In her speech, Sharon raised the concerns that more and more people would be diagnosed with this health condition, and the need for preventative measures to be considered whilst also looking at the false economy around cuts to public health grants, and for better awareness of symptoms and treatments. 

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Arthritis Awareness Week Westminster Hall Debate 20.10.16

Speech pasted below:

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts.

Today we are debating arthritis and what more can be done to help those who suffer from this terrible health condition. It is very welcome that the Backbench Business Committee allowed this debate to happen today, which is in arthritis awareness week and so soon after World Arthritis Day. I also thank the Members from across the House who secured the debate with the Backbench Business Committee, and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for leading the debate this afternoon. He eloquently and clearly set the tone, and I thank him for that.​

As we have heard, this condition can often go unnoticed or ignored by individuals and wider society, and I hope that the awareness work seen this week has helped somewhat in changing that, along with the role that everyone here has played in supporting that culture change. Nearly 10 million people in the UK live with arthritis. The symptoms can vary; there are over 200 known types of arthritis and rheumatic disease. The symptoms include inflammation of the joints, pain, fatigue, stiffness and difficulty moving. It is quite a common misconception that arthritis is a health condition affecting only the elderly, but it can often affect all ages. That is why it is important that we raise awareness, and that more be done to educate the public on the symptoms, and on the support and help that is out there.

However, we must also be aware that, given the ageing population, more people will suffer with arthritis. The number of sufferers is expected to rise by 50% by 2030. It has to be said that the Government’s short-sighted cuts to public health grants will only cause havoc if the proper finances are not put in place to address our nation’s health.

Arthritis may not be a killer, but it does attack the way of life of many people. As has been put so eloquently today, this condition can make life a very painful struggle, with one in 10 people saying that they live with unbearable pain, day in and day out. The words of those who suffer with this condition can make the strongest cases for reminding us just how tough it can be to live with arthritis.

In the words of Sharon—I am not talking about myself in the third person here, Mr Betts—who suffers with psoriatic arthritis,

“It’s the forgotten condition that no-one thinks is important. It affects everything. It’s exhausting, depressing and makes you feel angry and frustrated.

It robs you of the life you thought you were going to have, the one you planned with your family. It robs you of a sense of purpose. You can’t do what you want, when you want, it’s unpredictable.

Life has to be adapted and constantly changed. The drugs make you feel sick and depressed and have side effects as long as your arm. It becomes important not to look back at what is lost and make an effort every day to look forward and think positively. But it’s invisible, other people don’t see any of that, you just look a bit stiff.”

Those are extremely powerful words and should be a reminder to us all of how important it is to do more to help those suffering with arthritis.

Hearing the stories and experiences of those who live with the condition is important to help raise awareness. That is why the aim of the awareness campaign “The Future is in your Hands” for World Arthritis Day last week was to highlight the stories of those who suffer. It reinforced the comments made by the chief medical officer back in 2012, who said that osteoarthritis, the most common musculoskeletal condition, is a

“generally unrecognised public health priority”.

The Government must listen to contributions of medical experts such as the chief medical officer, and to the expert opinion of those who experience arthritis. They must then act to do more to help those suffering with the condition.​

The Government could help to prevent the development of arthritis with preventive measures that relate to obesity and physical activity. Studies have shown that obesity is the single biggest avoidable cause of osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints. With two out of three obese people developing osteoarthritis, it is important that we seriously get to terms with addressing obesity; that will create an environment in which those suffering with arthritis can flourish, rather than struggle.

One key way to alleviate symptoms and support people who suffer with arthritis is by promoting physical activity, as it has been shown that regular physical activity can be beneficial in helping to reduce the impact of the condition on people’s lives. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees), who is no longer in her place, pointed out that it was a lifetime of sporting activities—she is a very well-known squash player—that probably caused, or exacerbated, her arthritis. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published clinical guidelines that recommend exercise as a core treatment for people with arthritis, irrespective of the severity of their condition.

We need to know which services are out there, so that we can help people acquire the recommended treatment. That is why it would be beneficial for the National Audit Office to conduct a review into physical activity services for people with arthritis. That would help to ensure that we, as policy makers, have the necessary information to drive the policy agenda, and would help to map areas with a shortfall in support and services for those with arthritis. I hope that the Minister will shed some light on plans to undertake that work. Such an investigation would also be important in the light of the cuts to public health grants under this Government. Those cuts are a false economy, and compound the problems accessing services for people who are seeking to manage and improve their lives.

I quoted the following figures to the Public Health Minister at about this time last week from this very spot, but they are worth repeating to the Minister here today. In the autumn statement, the former Chancellor announced further cuts to public health grants, which amounted to an average real-term cut of 3.9% each year to 2021. That translates to a further cash reduction of 9.6%. That is in addition to the £200 million of cuts to public health grants announced in the 2015 Budget. The Minister must bear those figures in mind when responding to the debate and whenever the Department takes action on public health issues. It really is a false economy to cut funding to already overstretched and burdened public health services, as that will obviously exacerbate the problems with those services in the long term.

The need for further awareness of arthritis and its symptoms was clearly shown in a UK-wide survey of more than 2,000 people conducted by Arthritis Care last year, which found that more than a quarter of arthritis sufferers had waited two years to seek help after their symptoms began. When asked why, some 52% said that it was because it did not occur to them that they could have arthritis, and 28% felt that nothing could be done to address their arthritis. I hope that those who have listened to this debate have heard, loud and clear, that help is out there, and that delaying seeking that help will not aid them or their long-term health and wellbeing. That point was made eloquently ​by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), who, I think hon. Members will agree, looks 10 years younger than she did a little over a year ago.

Raising awareness is vital. Last week, world-famous performer Robbie Williams gave a candid interview explaining that he suffers with arthritis and describing the impact that has had on his performance; as a Robbie fan, that concerns me. The more we talk about the condition, and the more that high-profile people, such as the MPs here today, talk about their experiences, the better.

There have been so many eloquent and personal accounts in this debate. I particularly mention the brave and moving account of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham. She will be playing tennis soon with our own parliamentary tennis champion, Mr Speaker, and I, for one, definitely want a front-row seat for that one. My hon. Friend is a true inspiration to the 10 million arthritis sufferers across the country.

I hope that the Minister has listened not only to the debate and contributions from Members present, but to the voices of those outside this place who have called on the Government to do more for those living with arthritis and the pain that comes with it. There are many ways for the Government to do something, and ideas have come from across the House to steer the Minister in a direction that will help the 10 million people who suffer with the various levels of pain associated with arthritis. Let us hope that this time next year, when we recognise National Arthritis Week again, we will have helped more people to lead a healthier, happier and more pain-free life.

Arthritis Awareness Week Westminster Hall Debate 20.10.16

Sharon speaking in the Arthritis Awareness Week Westminster Hall Debate 20.10.16 Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Arthritis...

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