This morning I visited the Maternity Unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead (QE), along with Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
I was very keen to see first-hand the excellent work done by Midwives at the QE. A recent CQC report rated the Maternity Services at the QE as “Outstanding”; with the Hospital being rated as “Good” overall.
I’ve been delighted today to have seen the tremendous work done by staff at the QE Maternity Unit. It’s made me very proud.
It is important that we now maintain this level of outstanding service. At a time when so many Maternity Units across the country are struggling, it’s essential that we don’t let that happen at the QE. All Maternity Units deserve the high level of service that we have here.
Yesterday Liz was delighted to Chair an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) aiming to raise the profile of the rare disease, Phenylketonuria (PKU).
PKU is a rare genetic metabolic disorder affecting around 1:10,000 people in the UK. People with PKU cannot metabolise phenylalanine, an amino acid found within protein foods. This disease can cause irreversible brain damage or impaired cognitive or neurological function if not correctly treated.
Currently, the only treatment funded in the UK is an extremely restricted dietary therapy in which almost all natural protein is removed from the diet. The majority of PKU patients in other European nations have access to the drug BH4 (Kuvan), which can increase a PKU person’s protein tolerance. The NHS does not currently commission Kuvan treatment.
We am hopeful the APPG will raise awareness of PKU and consider the need for improvements to access to treatment. The picture shows Liz with members of the NSPKU (National Society for Phenylketonuria).
Column – January 2018
So here we are in another New Year – 2018 already. I hope you had a good break over Christmas and the New Year. On Monday I’ll be returning to Westminster, but this week is a good chance for me to catch up on local issues and get a feel for what’s important to my constituents here locally as well as nationally, and to have a look forward to the coming year.
Labour has a positive message for the coming year. Jeremy’s new year message set out again our vision of a Britain offering opportunities for all, one where a Labour Government would implement the policies which so many people here in the north east welcomed in our election manifesto and which work for the many, not the few. Key to that message will be our concern for the NHS. Coming in the week that NHS chiefs announced that most pre-planned operations will be put on hold until the end of January, I think all of us would welcome the increased investment which Labour has promised for the NHS and Labour’s commitment to keeping the NHS public.
We have some excellent NHS services here in the north east and I know that, as we look forward to celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS this year, my constituents are determined that our hospitals and other NHS services are delivered for the public good and not for private profit. We’ll be making sure that the Tories aren’t allowed to slip through massive changes to the NHS while Brexit dominates the agenda.
Tuesday of this week saw Shadow Rail Minister Rachel Maskell in Newcastle highlighting the Government’s shockingly poor rail policies for the north, services which sell our region short but which would unbelievably let Virgin East Coast off the hook of paying the payments they promised for running the franchise under the cloak of a reorganisation of rail services. All this at the same time we see passengers paying the price through a 3.4% hike in rail fares. We have experience up here of how a rail service can run successfully and make a profit under public ownership – which is exactly what East Coast mainline did! No wonder there’s a lot of support from my constituents for our policy of having directly run, modern and efficient train services.
So back in Westminster we’ll be challenging this shambolic Tory Government on their plans for the NHS, transport, funding for local government, and fire and rescue services; we know these and other issues are what make a difference to folk here in the North East.
Last month I had the chance to meet representatives of organ donor groups and NHS Blood and Transport to hear about how many more lives could be saved if more of us became organ donors. I was shocked to hear how many people are waiting for organ donation, many of them dying needlessly for lack of donors. Just before the Christmas break and following all-party support, the Government launched a consultation exercise on increasing the number of donors and asking whether we should look at an “opt out” donation system as they have in Wales.
Whatever your views on donation, please take part in the consultation and most of all, have the discussion about your own wishes with your family and friends. My friend Jon was fortunate to find a donor and have a successful heart transplant at our own Freeman Heart and Lung transplant unit and it has made an incredible difference to his life.
You can find the consultation online at https://engage.dh.gov.uk/organdonation.
You can watch and read Liz’s contribution to the Autism Community: Mental Health and Suicide debate below:
“First, I thank the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron)—sorry for my pronunciation—for her thoughtful and comprehensive speech, and for setting out the difficulties that people with autism face. I am tempted to say, “What she said,” but I do not think that does justice to the situation.
I just want to touch on a few points. Earlier this year I met Autistica, a charity that does research into autism. If other hon. Members have not seen its report “Personal tragedies, public crisis”, which looks into why people with autistic spectrum disorders die early—up to 16 years early, as the hon. Lady said—I would encourage them to do so. It makes shocking reading. The key points include the point that autism in itself is not a mental health problem, but that eight out of ten autistic people will face mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. Four out of 10 children with autism have two or more mental health problems. The research also shows that suicide is a leading cause of death among people with autism. Autistic adults without a learning disability are nine times more likely than others to die by suicide, and autistic adults with a learning disability are twice as likely to be die by suicide. Those are shocking figures. Suicide is preventable, and we need to do much more to reduce those figures.
We also need to recognise some of the specific problems people face. As other Members have said, many mental health problems can look different in autistic people. We need to recognise that and make sure that the issue is addressed, and that people have the appropriate treatments and are dealt with properly.”
“Intervention from Barry Sheerman MP for Huddersfield:
My hon. Friend is quoting from an excellent piece of research, but is she aware that the autism commission I chair has conducted a piece of work about the spectrum of obstacles and the difficulty that people with autism face in getting through to the right people in the health service? Those two pieces of research are so powerful.”
“I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I absolutely agree that the two pieces of work go together and can help us to improve services for people with autism spectrum disorders.
As others have said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that some mental health therapies are not right for people with autism and do not work in the same ways that they do for other people, and we need to do more research into those areas.
It can be difficult for autistic people to approach services for support, and we have already heard about the issues with going to a GP surgery. Autistic people and their families are also left fighting the system too often, because information is not shared.
We need to do a number of things. First, as others have said, we need to diagnose autism much earlier so that appropriate interventions may be offered to people with autism and their families. Secondly, we need to record people who have autism on GP records and collect data so that we can identify the issues and develop appropriate services. It is good that, in the Westminster Hall debate in September, the Government committed to gathering data. I hope the Minister can update us on progress on that.
Next, it would be useful to hear from the Minister what progress is being made on developing the autism care pathway proposed in the “Five Year Forward View for Mental Health”, and whether it will address suicide specifically.
There is concern that suicide prevention measures are not well designed for autistic people. I hope that the Minister will look at what needs to be done differently to reach and support autistic people in crisis.
Finally, none of the recent Cross-Government suicide prevention strategies make reference to autism. Given that we now know that the risk of suicide is so high in the autism community, and that there are very different issues to be considered, as we have heard, will the Minister commit to ensuring that the next strategy looks directly at how to help autistic people in crisis?”
Earlier this week I was pleased to attend a meeting with Beat, The UK’s eating disorder charity, to look at the latest research on eating disorders throughout the UK. It showed that many people take a shocking length of time to discover they have an eating disorder. On average, there’s a 3-and-a-half year gap between symptoms developing and treatment starting. I know many of my constituents are touched by this and I am happy to work with Beat in the future to help those affected by this awful disorder.
“Today is “Wear It Pink” day. The event, which takes place during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is in its 16th year and has raised over £30 million to date for Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research.
“I’ve joined with fellow MPs to show support for the thousands of women and men affected by breast cancer each year, encouraging people across the UK to take part on Wear It Pink day.
“Anyone can take part in Wear It Pink, which brings together schools, workplaces and communities. All you need to do is wear something pink, or hold a pink event at home, work or school, and make a donation to Breast Cancer Now. Whatever you do, you’re helping the charity achieve its aim that, if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. One in eight women will face it in their lifetime, and every year around 11,500 women and 80 men lose their lives to the disease.
“This is why I’m urging constituents across Blaydon to take part in wear it pink today. It’s such a fun and easy way to support Breast Cancer Now’s vital research, and help stop breast cancer taking the lives of those we love.”
For more information visit the Wear it Pink website.