Health and Social Care
Health and Social Care has always been an important issue to me, and to constituents in my annual Big Conversation, but the pandemic has reminded us how much we owe to health and care staff. The unprecedented pressure on the NHS and care services has also highlighted the pressures created by underfunding over the last decade. I have always pushed for better investment in health and care, as well as improved pay and conditions for staff, and have continued to do so at a time when we have relied on these services more than ever.
In the last Queen’s Speech, only nine words were dedicated to social care despite Boris Johnson’s grand promises. I spoke in the debate urging Ministers to publish their plans for reform and making the case for a radical new approach to care.
Alongside the problems facing the NHS is the crisis in social care, which has been deepened by the massive Government cuts to the local councils that provide care services, which also increases the pressure on our hospitals and GP practices. I have challenged the Government on the shortage of funding many times (here and here, for example), both for councils in general and for social care specifically. There is also an unequal distribution of funding for adult social care, affecting cities like Sheffield, on which I have challenged Ministers.
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. I have raised concerns about ‘invisible’ unsupported carers with the Government and on increasing Carer’s Allowance. I have helped Sheffield Young Carers to take forward their concerns and recommendations, bringing a group of young carers to meet Theresa May when she was Prime Minister, leading a debate in Parliament on the issue and helping to establish the new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers
I’ve been working closely with Manor-based SHINE Health Academy on tackling child obesity. This has included bringing staff and young people to Parliament to talk to MPs about their experiences and ideas about tackling the crisis, which were reflected in the subsequent Health and Social Care Committee report into child obesity, and then taking them to meet with the Minister to further discuss their work and concern.
I’ve been supporting local charity Gambling with Lives, set up by the families and friends of young men who have taken their own lives as a direct result of gambling addiction, and I hosted their launch in Parliament. I challenged the previous Government on their inaction on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals and have pressed for tough action to address the public health crisis caused by gambling.
I’ve also long campaigned for a change in the law to allow people to die with dignity, drawing on my own experience, and spoke on this recently in Parliament.
GP and hospital services
I regularly meet with the Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which is the GP-led body which commissions local services, the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, which has five of its six hospitals in my constituency, and the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Trust which is one of only four specialist children’s hospital trusts in the UK. I also meet with the Health and Social Care Trust and the Director of Public Health.
I opposed the Tory-led Coalition Government’s controversial reorganisation of the NHS in 2012 and, more recently, voted against the Health and Care Bill. I’ve consistently pressed for better funding for the health and care, calling for the Government to reverse tax cuts to provide the money the NHS needs and for the former Health Secretary to address the £571 million funding shortfall for health and care services in South Yorkshire.
After I called for more funding for the Children’s Hospital (for which I’ve also raised funds), I was pleased it secured extra cash. More recently I organised support from local MPs for the development of the hospital, backing the grant application for a National Centre for Child Health Technology, as well as pushing for the A and E Department to be expanded to meet demand.
Reflecting constituents’ concerns on appointments and waiting times, I have urged Health Ministers to improve access to GP services, and raised specific local problems. I’ve taken up local GP practices that were threatened with closure which I raised with David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, and brought local doctors and patient representatives to meet Ministers.
NHS and care workers
Its staff make the NHS the success that it is and they deserve to be paid accordingly. In Parliament, I challenged former PM David Cameron over his Government’s failure to award recommended pay rises to hard-pressed NHS workers, backed junior doctors in their contract dispute and joined their pay protests, spoke at an RCN rally on nurses pay, supported calls for the NHS pay cap to be lifted and pressed then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to commit to a substantial pay increase for nurses and other health & care staff after the public support shown for the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’.
Care workers are desperately undervalued too. In July 2020 I challenged Boris Johnson at PMQs on better pay and support for care workers, and I have worked with UNISON to end the illegal underpayment of hundreds of thousands of domiciliary care workers who are paid below the minimum wage, meeting with Ministers to make the case for practical changes to end these practices.
I also opposed the Government’s decision to scrap bursaries and impose tuition fees on nursing, midwifery and allied health students, and have pressed Health Ministers on the need to reverse the changes to address falling numbers,
I have campaigned for better mental health support for years, challenging Ministers on funding cuts and warning the Government that Theresa May’s warm words about tackling the mental health crisis mean little without greater investment in services. After constituents raised concerns in the 2019 Big Conversation, I took these to Parliament in responding to the Queen’s Speech, by highlighting long waiting times and a failure of support.
Taking up issues raised by school students, I have challenged the Government on the shortage of mental health support in schools, which has been squeezed by the school funding crisis, and argued for counselling provision in every school. At an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students before the pandemic I arranged for students from across the country to take part in a conversation about mental health – and their case for better support services has been heightened by the coronavirus crisis.
Gambling – I believe that we should treat gambling addiction as a health issue, and I work with Gambling with Lives and the GamblingRelated Harm APPG on the need to reform gambling regulation in the UK as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act. With the Government’s proposals for reform expected in a White Paper later this year, I’ve been pressing to ban gambling advertisements (see here for example) and sponsorship in football as part of the Big Step, tabling Parliamentary Questions on reform, and writing to Ministers on the collapse of Football Index.
Child obesity – I work with Manor-based Shine Health Academy and took them to meet the Minister for Public Health Jo Churchill as part of our campaign for the NHS to commission specific services for children and young people (see more here). I back public health measures to prevent obesity, but have also called for greater support for seriously overweight children and young people.
Dentistry – I have pressed for access to dental services and called on Ministers to rethink the new dental contract which would threaten services in Sheffield and nationwide.
MND – I’m a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Motor Neurone Disease, a condition on which the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) does world-leading research.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.