Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94
Click on picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2017 number 93
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Feb-Mar 2017 number 93
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92
In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon was invited to speak to a group of Socialist Health Association members in the North East about public health and prevention. In her speech, Sharon raised concerns over the progress of the Five Year Forward View's promise of a "radical upgrade in prevention and public health" and how the crisis and mismanagement the NHS is facing is currently not allowing this promise to be fulfilled.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
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Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning.
The Socialist Health Association is an organisation of academic specialists, medical practitioners and those with health interests within the organisation, and I know that myself and the rest of the Shadow Health team greatly appreciate the work you do to support Labour’s approach to all matters related to health policy.
Health inequality is an issue which we continually need to work on to get right, especially here in the North, where it is well documented that our region and other northern regions have persistently poorer health than the rest of the country. This gap has widened over the last four decades.
Figures show this to be the case, with latest public health outcomes data showing that the North-East and the North-West have the lowest life expectancy compared to London and the South-East, which have the highest.
It was highlighted in the Due North report that since 1965, there have been 1.5 million excess premature deaths in the North due to the disparity in health outcomes.
This is something that cannot be ignored.
This shows what we all know to be true: people in the more deprived areas of the country do not live as long as those in more affluent areas.
This is exacerbated by the fact that those short lives can also be unhealthy lives. Long-term health conditions, cancer prevalence, and addictions are all far more common in more deprived areas of the country.
It is not only the health of people which is affected by health inequalities, but also there is an economic argument to be made too. In England, as a whole, the cost to the NHS of treating illnesses and diseases arising from health inequalities is estimated at £5.5 billion a year, and ill-health means a loss to industry of £31 to £33 billion each year in productivity.
If we are to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities in our region, and indeed across the country where there are pockets of persistent inequality, then it is important that we look at how our health and social services are working now and how we need to ensure services are working towards improving the health of our nation, especially through prevention.
The NHS, Social Care and Public Health Funding
It goes without saying that this winter saw our NHS face unprecedented challenges which has pushed it virtually to the brink.
In the week of 9th January to 15th January, we saw 69 trusts out of 152 reporting serious operational pressures at some point during that given week – with the average deemed to be 50 Trusts a day reporting operational pressures.
There are countless stories in the media about the pressures the NHS is facing, and sadly, the Government have buried their heads in the sand and acted as if the issue isn’t as bad as it is in reality.
Whilst we are seeing the NHS facing a crisis, we are also seeing yet another reorganisation of services at a local level through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
Whilst in principle, the idea of improving integrated services through STPs is a welcome idea, there are real and perceived concerns on the ground – not just here in the North, but across the country – that the efficiency savings are all about cuts, rather than improving clinical services for patients.
Pair all of this with the pressures in adult social care services, which saw a cut in funding of £4.6 billion in the last Parliament and experts warning there is an expected £1.9 billion funding gap in social care this year alone, then there is no wonder why there is no ability to seriously address health outcomes and inequalities.
Even in my own area of policy – public health - we are beginning to see what could be a crisis.
Whilst the total spend on public health is just over 4% of GDP, the then Chancellor in 2015, announced a £200 million in-year cut to the pot of money, and then in the Autumn Statement announced an average, real-terms cut of 3.9% until 2020.
It is estimated that that by 2020-21, public health funding will fall to just over £3billion, compared to the £3.47billion in 2015-16.
Even though the Government has ring-fenced this money when it reaches local authorities, there is no guarantee it will continue in the next spending round in 2018.
It is hypothetical what will happen, but when local authorities are strapped for cash already, if the ring fence is removed, there is a real concern that those councils with difficult decisions to make may take from this budget to plug other areas.
This can in some way be backed by current figures on the cuts we are seeing to public health services, as reported in the Health Select Committee’s report: Public Health, post-2013, where they cited figures by the Association of Directors of Public Health.
These figures showed the stark impact of the cuts we are already seeing. Take for example, health checks in 2015-16 which saw a cut of 27% and soared to 59% in 2017-17 with a 1% decommissioning.
Or weight management support which saw a 32% reduction and 9% decommissioning in 15-16, which then rises to 52% reduction and 12% decommissioning in 2015-16.
What we are seeing in the NHS, social care and public health is a complete mismanagement and lack of commitment to fund these important services properly.
This is something I have raised with Health Ministers across the House of Commons: if you cut from one area in the health and social care service, you will see a knock on affect in others.
This has unsurprisingly been met with disregard from ministers who fail to recognise the impact their mismanagement is having on these vital services and the health of the country.
It must be remembered, that for a region – such as our own – where ill-health and health inequalities are clearly apparent that this approach to our health services will have a serious impact on regions which are already at the lower end of the spectrum of dealing with health problems.
Yet, also this approach, especially to public health, goes completely against NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which promised: “a radical upgrade in prevention and public health” and the Prime Minister’s own commitment to reduce health inequalities when she took office.
It is clear that the radical upgrade and desire to address these issues are not being met. In fact, it could be described as going backwards, or at best, staying still. Neither option is a welcome one.
However, if we remember the state of the NHS currently, which is fighting crisis after crisis every day, then it is not surprising that this worthy commitment to prevention and reducing health inequalities is not being worked towards.
How do we address this?
What we need to see is this radical upgrade made a central theme to any approach to improve services and not see them cut to the bone.
For me, improving the health of our nation is not just a health priority but a social justice one as well.
Because of persistent ill-health and poor health outcomes, people here in the North are not being allowed to reach their fullest potential and instead held back by inaction to improve their health, both through interventions but also providing them with the tools to improve their health themselves.
To do this, the NHS needs to bring forward a new funding settlement for the NHS and social care in the upcoming Budget, which will not only give the NHS the vital funding it needs to deal with increasing pressures, but also in order that it can begin to achieve its vision of radically upgrading prevention and public health as called for in the Five Year Forward View.
This should also include a rethink on the current approach to public health – the false economy of reducing funding when pressures remain the same, or increased, shows a complete lack of joined up thinking by the Government. And this is something I will push them to rethink at every available opportunity that I have as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health.
It seems illogical to me that you cut prevention budgets, which will just present problems further down river in the NHS which as we know is already facing difficulties when coping with the demands it has now.
However, it cannot all be about funding. Labour’s approach at the last General Election was two-fold: one, ensuring interventions happen when necessary, especially at younger ages to correct bad habits which could lead to ill-health in adulthood, and second, ensuring that adults have the tools in their arsenal to make healthy lifestyle choices to live fulfilling lives.
This is something that I hope to continue to build upon in my time as Labour’s spokesperson on public health and ensure that any policies we propose will help seriously shift us away from the current situation where persistent health inequalities remain the norm.
To end, health inequalities are a serious issue that cannot be ignored. Reports after reports have shown that we have not made many serious inroads into health inequalities, and that is why it calls for a radical approach which doesn’t weaken the already fragile state of affairs we are seeing.
With innovation and political will, we can ensure the gap in health inequalities shrinks and health outcomes improve. To do this, we need that step change in ethos called for in the Five Year Forward View towards prevention but an NHS which itself is healthy enough to seriously begin to work towards this vision – if that does not happen, then it will never be achieved.
I hope in the discussions that we can start the process of doing just that, and I hope that you will all feed your thoughts and ideas into the Health and Social Care Commission.
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan 2017 number 91
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan 2017 number 91
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Nov-Dec 2016 number 90
Sharon Hodgson speaking in the Backbench Business Debate on the Government's upcoming Childhood Obesity Strategy - 21st January 2016
Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon spoke about the need for school food to be seen as an integral part of the Government's upcoming Childhood Obesity Strategy by looking at the evidence already out there of the benefits of a healthy school meal, especially one that is free, along with addressing child holiday hunger - which has become a growing problem in the UK in recent years.
Read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson Childhood Obesity Strategy Debate 2016
Text pasted below:
I congratulate the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) on proposing and securing this important debate, and she will be pleased to hear that I agreed with almost everything she said. Many here in the Chamber will be aware of my strongly held passion to provide all children with a hot and healthy school meal, especially one that is free. The debate around the Government’s impending childhood obesity strategy, both here in Parliament and in the outside world, has focused on the reformulation of foods that are high in sugar and salt and the introduction of a sugar tax. Although I support those measures, I want quickly to discuss how school food can play a significant role in addressing the obesity crisis facing our children today.
I want to say at the outset—I am sure people are thinking this, if not here then definitely on social media—that I am rather overweight myself and that some may say I should practise what I preach. I do try. But that is why I am so passionate about this agenda: I know how much harder this becomes as you get older. I was allowed to adopt bad habits that are hard to break, and that shows why we need to educate the next generation to do much better.
School food has played a role in public policy for more than 100 years. It was first discussed in this place in 1906 when Fred Jowett, former Member of Parliament for Bradford West, used his maiden speech in the Chamber to launch his campaign to introduce free school meals when compulsory education was being rolled out. That led to the passing of the Education (Provision of Meals) Act 1906, which was originally Jowett’s private Member’s Bill.
Jowett’s campaign was driven by his experience as a member of the Bradford school board, where he witnessed the malnourishment of children who then fell behind their more affluent peers. Here we are, more than 100 years later, and those arguments are still being made today.
I was just thinking the same as my hon. Friend about how far we have come in some respects but not in others. She will be aware of the private Member’s Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field). Does she support it?
Yes, that private Member’s Bill is an excellent initiative, and should be adopted by the Government and local authorities. It is very simple to share the data that we already have on families who are entitled to benefits, to ensure that the entitlement of their children to the pupil premium is not lost when universal free school meals are rolled out. That is a very important point.
Although we do not always think about obesity in this way, it is a form of malnourishment. What we are seeing today is very similar to what we saw more than 100 years ago, with children lacking the right nutrients to see them living a healthy childhood and growing into healthy adults. That is especially concerning given that today more than one third of children are leaving school overweight or obese.
The school setting is one of the most important interventions in a child’s life; it is where we nurture and educate future generations. Why should we not feed these children so that they are fuelled to receive the best education and life chances possible? That notion was strongly supported by the previous Labour Government, who introduced a raft of measures that addressed the food eaten by children in our schools. They included nutrition-based school food standards that provide children with the proper nutrition to learn, fully-costed plans to extend our universal free school meal pilots, and the introduction of healthy, practical cooking on the national curriculum.
Although much, or all, of those measures were scrapped when the coalition Government were formed in 2010, it was very welcome when, in 2013, the school food plan was published, calling for the reinstatement of lots of those measures as well as new and improved measures in our schools to address the health of our children. Those included introducing food-based standards for all schools, training head teachers in the benefits of food and nutrition, improving Ofsted inspections on school food, and the roll-out of universal free school meals for primary school children, when funding was found.
As we know, that funding was found, thanks to David Laws and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). Fortunately, universal infant free school meals were secured by the Chancellor in the comprehensive spending review. All those measures came out of concerns for the health of our children and the growing obesity crisis, especially given that 57% of children were not eating school lunches. Some were opting to take in packed lunches, only 1% of which met the nutritional standards of a hot lunch, while others were opting to go off site to eat junk food at local takeaways.
As research has found, health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the NHS more than £5 billion a year, and, with obesity rates continuing to rise for 11 to 15-year-olds, especially in deprived areas, it is now clearer than ever that we need seriously to address childhood obesity.
Giving children a healthy and balanced diet during the school day can only be a positive intervention in helping to address obesity. I cannot stress how strongly I believe that one of the most important interventions to help address health issues in childhood is universal free school meals.
The hon. Lady mentioned that children are consuming junk food from outlets near schools. Does she believe that councils should have powers, as part of planning guidance, to take action on junk food outlets being so close to schools?
Yes, I do. I really welcome that intervention, because it not only makes the point, but stresses it very strongly. Some councils are very good and introduce byelaws to ensure that burger vans cannot pull up outside a school, and that, if there is already a number of takeaway shops nearby, no more can open. Matters such as that need to be addressed by councils.
The pilots introduced by the previous Labour Government in Durham and Newham to look into the benefits of universal free school meals found many benefits to a child’s health, and research continues now that we have universal infant school meals. The pilots in Durham and Newham found a 23% uptake in vegetable consumption at lunchtime and a steep decline in the typical unhealthy packed lunch foods. For example, there was a 16% decline in soft drinks and an 18% decline in crisps. Those are all-important figures that the Government should remember, and both the Department of Health and Department for Education should look further into how best they can use the vehicle of universal free school meals to help improve children’s health.
Although universal free school meals are protected in the Government’s comprehensive spending review—this followed a concerted campaign by school food campaigners, myself and others in the House—there is another area that the Government must consider when looking to improve the health of our children: holiday hunger. Children are in school for just 190 days of the year, and the rest—a total of 170 days—is totally down to their parents. Some may say that that is how it should be and that when we lock the school gates for the holidays it is none of our business what children eat, whether they eat or what they get up to. None the less, with the growing use of food banks in school holidays and the reports that children return from the longer school holidays noticeably thinner and unhealthier, the issue is one that we can no longer ignore.
If there is a push for better food provision in our schools, then we need to be doing much more during the holidays so as not to undo the hard work that goes into improving the life chances of children during term time. That is why the school food all-party group, which I chair, has established a holiday hunger task group, which last year launched its “Filling the Holiday Gap” guidelines to provide organisations and local authorities wishing to provide food during holidays with the resources to offer healthy and nutritious food. Late last year, it published its update report, which called for action to be taken by the Government.
When the Government’s childhood obesity strategy is published, I hope that there will be significant mention of the benefits that school food, especially universal free school meals, can have on a child’s health, and of how it can be used to address the growing childhood obesity crisis. There is evidence out there to support using universal free school meal provision to its fullest, instead of squandering its potential, to improve the health of our children.
This is a moment when the Government can really make a difference to children’s lives and I hope that all options and avenues will be pursued so that children are given the healthy food that they need to fuel their education and to make them as healthy a version of themselves as possible so that they grow into fit and healthy adults.
Sharon lends her support to a campaign to help raise awareness of atrial fibrillation (AF).
Atrial Fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular pulse and increases a person's risk of stroke by four to five times. However, AF does not always cause symptoms and some people are unaware they have the condition.
The Government has estimated that 700,000 people in the UK may have the condition without knowing it and therefore have an increased risk of having a stroke.
GPs and other healthcare professionals can identify AF through a simple pulse check and the risk of having a stroke can be reduced through treatment with anticoagulants that are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Within Sunderland's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), it is estimated that 7,162 people have AF. However, about 43 per cent of those are not thought to be treated with anticoagulants that would help reduce their risk of stroke.
To help raise awareness of AF, Sharon had her pulse checked at a Parliamentary walk-in clinic hosted by the Lord Black of Brentwood on behalf of the charity AntiCoagulation Europe.
Speaking after the event, Sharon said:
Events like this are vital in raising awareness across the country about hidden dangers like atrial fibrillation.
It is an easy thing to check, and treatment is on hand to those who are more at risk, so I urge everybody to get checked out, so that we can prevent more strokes and enable people to live longer and healthier lives.
Eve Knight, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of AntiCoagulation Europe, said:
With stroke the largest cause of death in Europe, and a major cause of adult disability, it’s vital that more is done to detect and diagnose AF and then minimise the risk of stroke by providing appropriate medication. People with AF should be given information about anticoagulation and have access to the full range of NICE-recommended treatment options.
I’m delighted to see Ms Hodgson tackling this important health issue and raising awareness of AF and stroke prevention in Washington and Sunderland West.
You can find out more about AntiCoagulation Europe at their website here.
Find out more about Atrial Fibrillation on the NHS Choices website here.