This weekend marks 70 years since the founding of the National Health Service by the post-war Labour government. The consensus, after six years of war, was that health care as a basic right, free at the point of need would ensure that Britain could flourish in the new age of peace. On Saturday morning I will join our local community at Blaydon Primary Care Centre to mark the anniversary. We’ll be presenting a birthday card to the health workers, often over stretched and over worked, who care for us day-in-day-out.
The visionary founder, Health Minister Ernie Bevan, foresaw that the NHS would never been free from threat, when he said that the health service would last “as long as there were folk with the faith to fight for it”. While Government announcements of increased spending on the health service are welcome after 8 years of cuts, in reality they are offering just about enough to stand. What we need is funding to meet our future needs.
Yesterday I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for increased funding for Public Health to invest in measures which will lead to better health for our communities, and we need to fund social care properly too. The fight for the service often described as a “national religion” is likely to be an on-going battle.
One of my favourite jobs is to visit local businesses and with the Team Valley Trading Estate in my constituency I get to see some of the most innovative businesses in the region. Last week I was invited to open the new oil recycling plant at Henry Colbeck on the Team Valley, a family-run business in our region established over 100 years ago. Henry Colbeck is well known as the main supplier for the fish and chip shops in our region. They are also leading the way in making the industry greener and cleaner, by recycling of used cooking oil for re-use by chippies or as biofuel.
Touring the plant was fascinating and I was amazed at how clean and hygienic the set up was. The company, led by Bill Colbeck, have taken a big risk in financing the new recycling technology, but bold decisions like this will help us to tackle the major environmental challenges we face now and in the future.
Last Thursday was International Phenylketonuria (PKU) day. PKU is a rare genetic disorder affecting around one in 10,000 people in the UK who are unable to metabolise phenylalanine, an amino acid found within protein. If left untreated, it becomes toxic, causing permanent brain damage. I became a founding member and Chair of the All-Party group on PKU, after I was approached because I was approached by the McGoverns, whose son Archie lives with this incredibly difficult condition. Currently, the only treatment available in the UK is a highly restrictive and complex low protein diet. I was delighted to join other MPs in taking part in the Diet for a Day Challenge, in order raise awareness of the condition. Much of the food they can eat is only available on prescription, so enjoying an ordinary diet is not possible.
The challenge was to eat a diet that gives you no more than 10g of protein in one day. We were unable to eat anything on the “Red list” – such as meat, fish, eggs or cheese and only able to eat a very small amount of foods of the “Amber list” – potatoes, beans, cereals and dairy. Most of our diet comprised of foods from the “Green list” – fruits and vegetables. It really highlighted the difficulties that people living on a low protein diet face.
It is just over two years since we lost Jo Cox MP, who told us that we share more in common than that which divides us. The Great Get Together weekend offered us a chance to get together within our local communities to celebrate our diversity. So, I was delighted to host afternoon tea in one of our region’s hidden gems; the Hermitage Garden in Whickham, to draw people together to share stories, laugh and enjoy the heatwave that has brightened our lives in recent weeks. Long may it continue.