Nearly three in four Sheffield Central residents rated the NHS as one of their biggest concerns, in my 2016 Big Conversation survey. It’s clear there are considerable worries about what the Government is doing to our health service. I share these concerns and have raised many health issues in Parliament. In November I pressed Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to address the £571 million funding shortfall for health and social care services in South Yorkshire. The crisis is not inevitable. It’s the result of the wrong political choices and I’ve called for the Government to reverse tax cuts to provide the money the NHS needs.
I have urged Health Ministers to take action to improve access to GP surgeries, highlighting local people’s concerns around long waiting times. I’ve also worked with local GP practices that were threatened with closure as a result of Government phasing out funding for supporting practices in more deprived areas. I raised this issue with the Prime Minister in Parliament, brought local doctors and patient representatives to meet Ministers and will continue campaigning on the issue.
I meet regularly with the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is the GP-led organisation that commissions healthcare provision for the city.
Five of Sheffield’s six NHS hospitals are in my constituency and I meet regularly with the Chair and Chief Executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, and the Chief Executive of the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Trust, which is one of only four specialist children’s hospital trusts in the UK. I brought former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander to Sheffield to meet health providers and discuss the challenges we face. I’ve pressed concerns on the length of hospital stays and the Coalition Government’s controversial reorganisation of the NHS in Parliament. The Government gave extra cash to Sheffield Children’s Hospital (for which I’ve raised funds), after I called for this in Parliament.
I’m Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Motor Neurone Disease, on which the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) does world-leading research.
Parity of esteem between physical and mental health needs to be a reality, not a soundbite. I challenged Ministers on funding cuts and warned the Government that Theresa May’s warm words about tackling the mental health crisis mean little without greater investment in services. In a debate in Parliament I raised Sheffield young people’s concerns about the state of provision of mental health services and their fears over the impact of cuts. Pressing for better mental health services is high on my agenda.
NHS staff make our health service the success story it is. In Parliament, I challenged David Cameron over his Government’s failure to award recommended pay rises to hard-pressed NHS workers. I’ve met with junior doctors to discuss their concerns, which I share, about the Government’s contract proposals. Changes to junior doctors’ contracts should be properly negotiated and the Government must take into account work-life balance, patient safety, morale, staff retention and recruitment.
The NHS crisis has been deepened by the massive Government cuts to local councils which provide social care. There is also an unequal distribution of funding for adult social care, which is creating a crisis for cities like Sheffield and I have challenged. I’ve challenged Ministers on the impact on GP practices, and inadequate social care has added to pressures on our hospitals.
Much of the responsibility for social care falls on families, who provide extraordinary support for loved ones. I am an Ambassador for Sheffield Carers Centre and a Patron for Sheffield Young Carers - two great local organisations that I meet frequently to listen to their concerns. The massive cuts to local councils has limited support for carers, which I've raised. I have also pressed the Government to extend Carer’s Allowance to those in full-time education.
Reducing budgets has also hit those who work in social care. In Parliament I have spoken out about the scandal of illegal pay in the care sector where hundreds of thousands of care workers are paid below the minimum wage. I’ve met with Ministers to make the case for practical changes to end these practices, and I’ll keep pressing on it.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.