Health and Social Care
Health and Social Care was one of the most important issues raised in my 2019 Big Conversation survey, reflecting worries that I hear all year around on getting GP appointments, pressure on A&E services, mental health provision and more. I share these concerns and have raised many health issues in Parliament. The crisis is not inevitable; it’s the result of the wrong political choices, which I have challenged. I’ve called 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 social care services in South Yorkshire.
I have urged Health Ministers to take action to improve access to GP surgeries, highlighting local people’s concerns around long waiting times, on which I wrote to the Minister again last year. 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 with David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, questioned the Health Minister on it in 2017 and brought local doctors and patient representatives to meet Ministers.
I meet regularly with the NHS 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 with the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Trust, which is one of only four specialist children’s hospital trusts in the UK.
I opposed the Coalition Government’s controversial reorganisation of the NHS in Parliament; I’ve pressed concerns on the length of hospital stays; and, after I called for more funding for Sheffield Children’s Hospital (for which I’ve also raised funds), the Government gave it extra cash.
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.
NHS staff make our health service the success that it is. 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, spoke at an RCN rally on nurses pay and supported calls for the pay cap for NHS staff to be lifted. 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,
In the 2019 Big Conversation, as in previous years, many people raised significant concerns about mental health services, and I took these to Parliament in my speech responding to Johnson’s Queen’s Speech, highlighting long waiting times and a failure of the support system. 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, and I have challenged challenging the Government on the shortage of mental health support in schools, which has been squeezed by the schools funding crisis.
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, and this 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
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.
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.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.