Jul 02

Renewed support for Halve It campaign to reduce HIV impact

I was delighted this week to renew my support for the Halve It campaign, which aims to halve the proportion of people diagnosed late with HIV and halve the proportion of people living with undiagnosed HIV.

Luciana Berger MP with Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust

Luciana Berger MP with Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust

Halve It represents people with HIV and those responsible for their care and does great work in making the case for action across government, local authorities, the NHS, social care and education to make it quicker, easier and less stigmatising to have a regular HIV test.

Its Positive Change report makes the point that people living with HIV are often from vulnerable groups that have experienced discrimination, including gay men and migrant communities, while HIV is still too often met with stigma in society and within healthcare settings.

HIV testing, treatment and care are now managed by multiple agencies across NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups and local authorities, which has made co-ordinating and promoting HIV testing more difficult.

I agree with the campaign that we need to see better co-ordination of care between HIV specialists, primary care and other specialist disciplines and make sure that people living with HIV are properly involved in their own care.

It is also important that we work together to identify and tackle HIV related stigma that exists within too many healthcare settings, so that people feel free and able to access regular testing and use services.

Jul 02

Labour forces action on gender pay gap

luciana cropped despatch-boxLabour has forced the government to act on the continuing gap between men and women’s pay levels.

In Liverpool Wavtertree, women are paid just 78p for every £1 paid to men – a figure worse that the national average. It’s 45 years since Labour passed the Equal Pay Act, which underscores the need to tackle low pay across the board and make sure that men and women are paid fairly.

Before the election the government conceded Labour’s calls to introduce mandatory gender pay reporting by large employers, but if pay transparency is to make a difference, we must set the ambition high.

That’s why Labour is calling on the government to task the Equalities and Human Rights Commission with performing an ‘Annual Equal Pay Check’.

The pay check would collate and analyse all the data and recommend actions to ensure we close the gender pay gap this generation.

I voted for this measure last night and I hope the government will come round to adopting this vital measure.

Jun 30

Tories are squandering our Olympics legacy

Luciana tacklesSports participation has fallen in the North West since the 2012 Olympic Games, squandering a wonderful chance to get the population more active.

New figures show that only athletics, cycling and gymnastics of the 26 Olympic sports have seen significant increases in participation since 2012/13, with 15 other sports seeing a fall.

The biggest drop in nationally funded sports comes in swimming, with 800,000 fewer people taking to the pool nationally than in the year after the 2012 London Games.

Participation rates are down across the board, with 212,000 fewer women, nearly 6,000 fewer people from a Black and Minority Ethnic background and 171,000 fewer people with a limiting disability participating in moderate intensity sport compared to the post-Games period of 2012/13.

The whole country came together to deliver a wonderful Olympic and Paralympic Games, investing the time and money to make it a success.

Labour called on the government to develop a long term plan for sport and physical recreational activity, but it is clearly failing.

We need to rekindle the Olympic spirit and develop a cross-party approach that incorporates Labour’s More Sport for All plan.

That includes putting the promotion of physical activity at the centre of public health policy with new, easily understandable recommended levels of physical activity and a new national ambition to get people more physically active.

We mustn’t squander the excitement that will build in the run up to the next Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 isn’t wasted again.

Jun 27

Armed Forces Day marks sacrifice and service

Labour Friends of the Forces logoToday across the country people will pause to acknowledge the incredible service and sacrifice made by the Armed Forces community.

Our Armed Forces serve in some of the most dangerous areas of the world to defend Britain’s interests and national security with unyielding commitment, professionalism and courage.

But the sacrifice associated with military life is rarely endured alone. We must also honour the families of those who serve. Their support for their loved ones should never be underestimated.

This year, when we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it is a time to remember the individual bravery and collective determination of all our veterans.

Labour is proud of Britain’s armed forces and we are committed to working with the service community, armed forces charities and the government to strengthen the Covenant between our nation and our service personnel, veterans and their families.

Jun 26

Tories held to account for failing NHS

NHS-RGB (2)Prime Minister David Cameron has created a crisis in the NHS and this week Labour held him to account.

Labour held a Commons debate to expose Tory failures.

Hospital accident and emergency departments have now missed the four-hour A&E target for 101 weeks in a row.

The Tories have made it harder to see a GP and stripped back social care services, forcing more people to turn to A& for help. Attendance at hospital A&E units rose 10 times faster in the four years after 2010 than in the four previous years of a Labour government.

As a result, doctors, nurses and so many NHS staff are being put under pressure. Patients are paying the price with long waits, while hospitals are reporting record deficits.

The Tory government has stopped the weekly reporting of A&E figures, making the NHS less transparent and it harder for patients to judge the performance of their local hospital. The Tory government has still not set out how it will tackle hospital deficits this year, nor said whether its £22 billion ‘efficiency savings’ involves staff cuts or service closures.

Labour called the parliamentary debate because we want to protect and improve our NHS.

We pushed for the weekly publication of A&E data and details of how the government will tackle hospital deficits.

We will not let up on this issue and will continue to stand up for one our most precious institutions.

Jun 19

Take a fresh look at young people’s mental health

CAMHS webpage screen grabCongratulations to all the young people and staff at Alder Hey behind the latest campaign to promote mental health. It is much needed.

Around one in 10 young people aged between five and 16 years of age will have a mental health problem, and all too often they can’t find the help and support they need. Too many adults with long term mental health issues can trace their difficulties back to problems that weren’t treated when they were young.

FreshCAMHS is a new website packed full of ideas about looking after your mental health and easy to use contacts.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have had a tough time under the last government, facing rising demands and falling budgets. There was a £50 million cut to children’s mental health services, a loss of 3,300 specialist mental health nurses and 1,500 mental health beds.

Across the country, twice as many children turned to A&E because they were not getting mental health support and too many were sent hundreds of miles from home, held in police cells or put on adult wards because there was nowhere else for them to go.

As shadow Public Health Minister I will be pushing this new government to live up to its promises to spend more on CAMHS and give mental health parity of esteem.

FreshCAMHS lets young people decide how they want to feel and offers everyday top tips on how to get there, backed up by routes to professional help when it is needed.

Jun 19

Still dodging the difficult questions on welfare cuts

Deficit debateThe Tories have a new minister at the Treasury called Greg Hands, who should know all about government intentions to cut public spending – and especially their plans to cut £12 billion from welfare.

However, when I pressed him for the information during Treasury Questions in the House of Commons, he adopted what is becoming a habit for over-confident Tory ministers and tried to ask a completely different question of his own rather than answer the one he was asked.

Unfortunately for him, the Speaker John Bercow stopped him in his tracks and pointed out that it was the constitutional role of the government ministers to be held accountable and to answer questions.

You can read our exchange here or view it here.

The fact is that despite the Chancellor telling us last week he was going to get our economy into surplus, the country is still £75 billion in the red. I wanted to know who was going to have to pay the price for the Tories cutting £12 billion of welfare spending.

Even after the Speaker’s intervention, the Treasury minister could only say that worried people will have to wait and see. It is not good enough that ministers refuse to answer questions and it is not good enough that they refuse to detail their plans.

Jun 19

Breaking new ground on rare diseases debate

Luciana Berger rare diseases debateParliament broke new ground this week with a debate on medicines for ultra-rare disease that was, for the first time, preceded by a public online twitter debate facilitated by the parliamentary outreach team.

It was a valuable way to open up parliamentary debate to public contribution and involvement.

You can watch my contribution to the debate here and read it here.

I made the point that rare diseases are actually more common than many people think. One in 17 people will be affected by a rare disease at some point in their life, which means that some 3.5 million people in the UK have a rare disease.

About 75 per cent of rare diseases affect children and almost one in three people with a rare disease dies before their fifth birthday. These are sobering statistics.

In government, Labour acted to implement recommendations from the European Union to develop a strategy to address the issue. NHS England has recently published its five year forward plan which reaffirms its commitment to achieving better outcomes for people with rare diseases.

However, it is clear from all the evidence I have received that more needs to be done. For instance, we are lagging behind many countries across Europe in assessing, approving and funding new drugs designed to combat the worst effects of some rare diseases.

In fact, there are seven pathways through which drugs for rare diseases can be evaluated and made available to patients. It is confusing and chaotic.

Patients who could potentially benefit have been left waiting or have had to go through complex local procedures to persuade the NHS to let them have the drugs.

I pressed the government to streamline the processes and make funds available to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which approves new medicines, to carry out more appraisals each year and speed new drugs from the laboratory to the patients who need them.

It is clear from the moving public contributions made in the run up to the debate, many of which I referred to in my speech, that speedy, easy access to the right medicines can save and change lives for the better.

Jun 17

Heading back Down Your Street

Luciana-Logo New Year (2)Down Your Street – my initiative to regularly meet as many constituents as possible – is back by popular demand next month following my re-election as MP for Liverpool Wavertree at the General Election.

My summer 2015 Down Your Street tour includes visits with local councillors to streets in every ward in the constituency.

I, and the local councillors, will be meeting residents, taking up issues, and listening to people’s views and concerns.

Between now at the next General Election in 2020, I want to make sure that every single resident has the chance to meet me and talk to me.

For Down Your Street, I will write to residents in advance and offer the chance to put a poster in the window inviting me to visit. I will knock on every door in the street and make sure that I leave a contact card for myself and your local councillors if you are out.

I know from the last five years as MP for Liverpool Wavertree that people want people want their MPs and councillors to be available to be willing to listen and to act to make life better.

Here is where I will be in the coming weeks:

  • Saturday morning July 4 in Old Swan
  • Friday afternoon July 10 in Childwall
  • Friday afternoon July 17 in Kensington
  • Saturday morning July 18 in Picton
  • Friday afternoon August 14 in Church
  • Friday afternoon August 28 in Wavertree

If want to contact me direct, or would like an appointment at one of my weekly surgeries, you can:

I look forward to meeting as many people as possible over the summer.

Jun 12

Celebrating the contribution of carers

Carers_Week_logo_with_date_wideNational Carers Week is highlighting the massive contribution informal carers make to people’s lives and the economy.

Across the UK, there are 6.5 million unpaid carers supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. That is currently 1 in 10 people and carer numbers are rising.

Carers help loved ones lead fulfilling lives but are often stretched to the limit with competing demands of their time and energy.

Over 80 per cent of carers say that their caring role has had a negative impact on their health, with three quarters feeling anxious and over half experiencing depression.

I was delighted today to see first-hand the amazing work taking place across Liverpool to support carers with information, advice and practical help, showcased by local charity Local Solutions at St George’s Hall.

Carers could find out about the support and information on offer from a whole host of agencies exhibiting in the hall with over 70 exhibitors showcasing their work and providing advice and guidance.Carers Week Pledge

This year, Carers Week is promoting Carer Friendly Communities which support carers to look after their loved ones well, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own. I have pledged to help make that happen here in Liverpool Wavertree.

Local Solutions launched its My Time initiative this week, connecting carers who could benefit from a break from their demanding roles with businesses and organisations offering free leisure activities.

There is already a generous and committed group of Liverpool hotels and apartments providing free overnight stays with evening meal and breakfast in order to support carers to take a breather. Now, Local Solutions wants others to join in and benefit from the feel good factor that comes from contributing to such a worthwhile, local, tangible cause which makes a real difference and is so appreciated.

If you would like to find out more about My Time, telephone 0151 705 2307 or email: mytime@localsolutions.org.uk.

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