Campaign response: APPG Meeting – Choice at End of Life
Thank you for constituent’s email informing me about the APPG on Choice at the End of Life meeting that took place on Wednesday 15th July.
I understand how sensitive but important the issue of assisted dying is for many constituents and indeed this is a subject I have written extensively on: http://stevedoubleforstaustellandnewquay.blogspot.com
I am pleased that a high number of MPs and members of the public were able to take part in this virtual APPG meeting in July. If I have the time, I will be happy to catch up on the meeting with the video link provided.
Campaign response: NHS Pay Rise
Thank you for constituents who have recently contacted me via the campaign group 38 Degrees concerning a pay rise for NHS doctors and nurses.
I pay tribute to every single person working in the NHS during this incredibly difficult period. Their hard work, dedication and professionalism has been a lifeline to many thousands of people, while they have, at the same time, selflessly cared for those individuals and families who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one.
As part of our efforts to support NHS staff in the fight against coronavirus, the Government has committed to ensuring the NHS has the resources, staff and funding it needs so it can continue to deliver world class care for everyone, whilst keeping staff safe at the same time. I know the immediate concern is keeping NHS staff safe and ensuring they have the protective equipment they need. That’s why the Government is working to ensure that all NHS staff and their families are able to get regularly tested for coronavirus, while also ramping up the production and delivery of personal protective equipment.
In June 2017, after the general election, I and my Conservative colleagues voted against an opposition amendment to the Queen’s speech, which among other things called on the government to lift the public sector pay cap.
The amendment would not, by itself, have lifted the public sector pay cap or have led to doctors and nurses in the NHS receiving more pay. Despite voting against the amendment, the Government announced the end of the pay cap later that year, and NHS staff received a pay rise in cash terms above 1% in the following financial year.
Annual pay awards for NHS staff are determined by an independent and transparent pay review body process.
Pay has already been set up to 2020-21, as part of a deal that was reached in 2018.
That deal was negotiated and agreed upon with the NHS trade unions, and represented one of the largest public sector pay increases in several years.
Starting pay for nurses, for examples, has risen by over 12 per cent since 2017-18, while the Government also agreed a pay deal that provides junior doctors with a minimum 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years.
The pay review bodies will make further pay recommendations for future years at the appropriate time, but I know the Government wants to ensure that the NHS continues to attract, retain and reward staff for their hard work, and I am certainly supportive of this.
Campaign Reply: "Please ask the PM to fix care" - 26 August 2020
Thank you to all those who have contacted me to highlight Age UK’s petition regarding social care.
I am very grateful to everyone who has contacted me about this important issue, especially to those who have shared their personal experiences and experiences of their loved ones receiving this vital care.
As I am sure you know, the Prime Minister expressed his personal commitment and this government’s commitment to social care. As published in our party manifesto for the General Election in December 2019, in which we secured an overwhelming majority, we are committed to securing a long-term cross-party consensus on social care.
We were due to begin this process early this year, however due to the Labour party not having a leader in place this unfortunately delayed any progress. It would have been impossible to conduct cross party talks without the opposition leader in place as securing a long-term solution for any legislation moving forward on social care would require the Labour leader and their shadow cabinet involvement and support. This means that we could not make any substantive progress until the new Labour leader was duly elected by party members and the new leader had appointed their shadow cabinet.
In March, in recognition of the urgency of this issue, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care wrote to all MPs to formally begin the process in readiness of the new Labour leader’s appointment due in early April. The second phase of structured talks on reform options were therefore rescheduled to be held in May but as I am sure you can understand, in March managing the outbreak of Coronavirus became the government priority. Please be assured this government remains committed to conducting these talks and this pandemic has only underscored how necessary these long-term solutions are.
It would be remiss of me to speculate on the outcome of these talks and subsequent agreements, as we are still in very early days, however please be assured it remains a government priority. We are looking to seek a long-term, sustainable solution which addresses the long-term difficulties within the sector and recognises not only the compassionate and dedicated work that carers have already been providing prior to this crisis, but also their heroic and brave efforts through this global crisis.
As the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Matt Hancock, I am pleased to be actively involved in this process and highlight the strong and passionate views of my constituents on this very important issue.
Campaign response - Please promote equality and sign EDM 521; Please sign EDM 521 - 13 July 2020
Thank you to constituents for contacting me about Early Day Motion 521 and the Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate, and Clubfoot) Bill.
As a principle I never sign early day motions as they very rarely achieve anything whilst at the same time running up costs to the taxpayer.
However as a pro-life MP I will be keen to show support for this important bill via other means. I have previously spoken out strongly against sex-selective abortion – an appalling practice that should not be tolerated under any circumstances. I view disability as another unacceptable condition on which pregnancies should be terminated. Disabled children deserves as much of a chance at life as able-bodied children. Many constituents have already written to me to highlight many examples of well-known individuals who suffer from conditions such as Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate, and Clubfoot at birth, but nevertheless have gone on to make important contributions in sports, entertainment and the arts.
Indeed, all of the current work and emphasis by the government on promoting better help and support for the disabled would all be meaningless, if society could simply choose whether a child deserves to be born or not based on their physical or mental state.
The Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate, and Clubfoot) Bill tabled by my colleague aims to put an end to disability-related abortions. If and when the Commons finds the time to deliberate this important legislation, I will certainly be voting in support of it.
Upcoming meeting on Wednesday 15th July All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life - 9 July 2020
My thanks to those who have contacted me with regard to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life scheduled for Wednesday 15th July.
I appreciate concerns raised on this very sensitive issue and fully understand how important end of life issues are to many constituents.
Unfortunately I am unable to attend this event as my diary for this time is fully booked, but am grateful to those constituents who have highlighted this event to me.
Campaign Reply: Reopen Soft Tissue & Sports Therapy Services - 5 July 2020
Thank you to all those who have contacted me with regard to businesses providing Soft Tissue Therapy, such as Sports Injury Therapists, who are unable to open on 4th July.
I do appreciate that for those who rely on these services for their health needs they are understandably keen for these businesses to reopen. I also know that many working in this profession are keen to return to work and support their clients.
Due to the vast number of different types of businesses and the services they provide, it is impossible to provide guidance that would individually identify every single business that would or wouldn’t be permitted to be reopened on 4th July. It was also important that the guidance is as accessible to as many people as possible. This was in no way meant to suggest anything untoward or demeaning, and the government recognises alternative medical practitioners, such as Sports Therapists, Sports Massage Therapists and Soft Tissue Therapists provide a vital service to many people.
As I’m sure you understand, the priority must always be to keep people safe. The decision regarding the reopening of businesses has been an exceptional challenge and has been based upon the assessment of risk. While the Government has been able to provide guidance to many businesses which are reopening, on how best to keep people safe, it currently feels that certain types of business will need to remain closed. This is because it has been assessed that they cannot yet be made sufficiently safe. There are a number of factors considered including whether this would involve close contact and what mitigations can be put in place. Businesses that will be able to reopen from 4th July can only do so providing they put measures in place, including social distancing, to keep both staff and customers safe.
I fully understand your concerns that businesses providing Soft Tissue Therapy, such as Sports Injury Therapists, are not currently part of this group.
Let me assure you that the Government is working around the clock to help more industries safely open, working with scientific and medical experts, along with the Health and Safety Executive, on how to do this in a way that minimises risk to both staff and customers.
In the meantime, the Government’s huge and unprecedented package of support for business remains in place, to help those companies that are struggling during this challenging time. For anyone with emergency or urgent medical needs, they can continue to access this via 111, their GP or, where appropriate, A&E.
I note all the concerns raised with me on this issue, and the exceptional work those in this industry are undertaking in order to reopen safely. I hope that as we continue to make progress, these businesses will be included in the next tranche allowed to open.
Thanks once again for taking the time to raise this with me.
Campaign Reply: 'Trikafta - a new CF treatment' - 1 July 2020
Thanks to my constituents who have contacted me to highlight Trikafta, also known as Kaftrio, a new treatment for Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Many of you shared your personal connections to CF, either as a patient with CF or as a loved one of a patient with CF, and I am grateful you have taken the time to share your experiences with me.
This drug was due to begin a seven-month NHS appraisal in January 2021, however in February the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, committed to accelerating the testing of this drug in recognition of the truly life-transforming treatment this can be for those with CF. I have raised this with my colleagues within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and am delighted to say that NHS England and NHS Improvement and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have now announced an agreement to fund Trikafta. This means clinicians will be able to start prescribing the triple treatment to English patients, as soon as the licence is granted in the coming weeks.
More information on this available via the NHS website, which I enclose a link to below:
I am very pleased to have been able to offer my support for this and I trust this will be welcome news to many CF sufferers and their loved ones.
Thanks once again for bringing this campaign to my attention.
Campaign response - Covid-19 tests - 1 July 2020
Following Thursday’s opposition day debate on the testing of NHS staff, a number of constituents have written to me asking why I voted against Labour’s motion.
To be very clear, I am not against regular testing of NHS staff. I am in favour of NHS staff testing policy as advised by the Chief Medical Officer.
The Shadow Health Secretary in his opening remarks at the debate said Labour are calling for weekly testing of NHS staff, “if necessary”.
But “if necessary” was not in the wording of their motion, which instead called for blanket weekly testing without any qualification – proving this was nothing more than a political stunt by a Labour party that could not even agree among themselves what they were asking for.
If MPs had ignored the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and voted in favour this inflexible approach as set out in the motion, implementing it would have led to all existing testing capacity being taken up and meant that no-one else – including the elderly and the most vulnerable to Covid-19 – would be able to get tested. I certainly could not in good conscience support this and I am glad many of my colleagues agreed with me by also voting against the motion.
Fundamentally the level of testing for NHS staff should be a matter that is decided by clinicians and not politicians, especially those seeking to score cheap political points as the Labour party did last week.
Regular testing, including weekly testing if it is deemed necessary by the Chief Medical Officer, is essentially what the current government policy is and I will continue to support this clinically-informed approach.