Mar 16

Celebrating the best of our NHS

Our National Health Service turns 70 on July 5 this year, and despite determined efforts by some to see it retired, Labour’s proudest achievement is still going strong.NHS-RGB (2)

Thanks to its staff and the taxpayers who fund it, the NHS protects us all every day.

There have been amazing advances in science, technology, information and medical understanding over the last seven decades, but one element in the NHS success story has remained constant: the people who work in it and support the delivery of its services every day.

I’m really pleased to be taking part in the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards to thank those staff and to recognise some of the great services they deliver.

Over the last 70 years, the NHS has worked with local communities, councils and the voluntary sector to transform the health and wellbeing of the nation. We can all expect to live longer lives thanks in large part to our NHS.

I know from meeting and listening to people across Liverpool Wavertree that there are some excellent and innovative services on our doorstep that are among the best in the country. The NHS70 Parliamentary Awards are designed to recognise the best across the nation.

There are nine categories:

  • Excellence in Mental Health Care Award
  • Excellence in Cancer Care Award
  • Excellence in Urgent and Emergency Care Award
  • Excellence in Primary Care Award
  • Person-Centred Care Champion Award
  • Future NHS Award
  • Healthier Communities Award
  • Care and Compassion Award
  • Patient and Public Involvement Award

And there is a special Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more.

I am asking for your help in identifying the services locally that deserve that national recognition. I can only make one nomination in each category and the NHS judges will then decide a national shortlist and pick a winner.

To access the nominate form, please click here, but hurry, the deadline is Friday March 23.

Mar 16

Britain’s first functioning mosque recognised

The historical value of Britain’s first functioning mosque has now been recognised by Historic England the public body that champions and protects England’s historic places.

I’m pleased that the mosque, at 8 Brougham Terrace, L6 1AE, has now been upgraded to Grade II* providing it with greater protection and recognising its role in establishing a Muslim community in Liverpool.

The Georgian terraced house was bought in 1889 as a home for the Liverpool Muslim Institute founded in 1887 by influential Muslim convert William Henry Quilliam and is believed to be Britain’s first fully-functioning mosque.

The Liverpool Muslim Institute began as a small community when it was first established at the Temperance Hall on Mount Vernon Street. By the turn of the century this had expanded to around 200 Muslims.

When it opened in December 1889, the mosque at 8 Brougham Terrace became the first fully-functioning mosque in England with established community worship.

Historic England describes it as an example of Liverpool’s capacity to embrace different cultural and faith communities, as well as evidence of the social and cultural diversity that developed as a consequence of the city’s role as an internationally significant port and trading centre.

After Mr Quilliam left Liverpool in 1908, the terrace was partly demolished, with numbers 8-10 retained and used as a registry office. Having suffered neglect in the early 2000s, the building is now playing a key role in the Muslim community once again thanks to an on-going restoration by the Abdullah Quilliam Society.

The mosque features in The British Mosque: An architectural and social history published by Historic England. The book is the first ever overview and explanation of Islamic architecture in Britain. It includes different types of mosques across the country from the earliest mosques formed from the conversion of houses, to other large scale conversions through to purpose-built mosques and with these the emergence of an evolving Islamic architectural expression in Britain.

Mar 15

Teaching Parliament

If you are a local teacher and ever wondered what Parliament has got to do with you or the students you teach, there is a great opportunity to find out coming up.Parliament teachers

The UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Programme is hosting a residential Teachers’ Institute on July 2-4. Teachers will experience Parliament first hand, and then return to their schools to support understanding of, and increase engagement with, Parliament.

Transport and accommodation costs are covered and applications are welcome from teachers, school leaders and teacher training providers working with young people aged 5-18.

The course includes:

  • Talks from subject specialists
  • Workshops devoted to key aspects of the work of Parliament
  • Q&A sessions with MPs and Peers
  • Opportunities to explore new and exciting teaching ideas
  • Tour of the Palace of Westminster

Application forms are available at UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Programme and the closing date is Sunday April 8.

If you would like more information, please Tel: 0207 219 3436.

Mar 12

A great chance to widen horizons

Would you like to go abroad to study, work, volunteer, teach or train?Erasmus logo

If the answer is Yes, then here is some good news – a record amount of Erasmus+  funding is available for organisations in Liverpool, Wavertree this year.

Every year, Erasmus+ funds around 16,000 UK higher education students to benefit from a study or work placement abroad, 6,000 UK vocational education and training students to benefit from a work placement abroad, and 5,000 young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, to benefit from a volunteering experience abroad.

The funding is open to schools, further and higher education, adult education and youth organisations.

The funding covers a range of activities, from vocational training placements to collaborative research, from joint projects between schools to training for youth workers, and is delivered across the UK by the British Council and Ecorys.

Two application deadlines are fast approaching.

The first is on March 21 for education and training partnerships on best practice, including school exchanges. You can find out more by clicking here.

The second is on April 26 for activities in the youth sector. You can find out more by clicking here.

In 2017 the total funding available to UK organisations was more than €148 million, and a UK budget of over €170 million is anticipated for 2018.

The programme is just one of the vital international links threatened in the long-term by Brexit. However, the UK is taking part in Erasmus+ this year, and up to 2020 in principle.

So if you are a school, further or higher education college, adult education or youth organisation – or you attend one of these institutions – please consider applying.

Remember, the next deadlines for applications are March 21 for exchanging best practice in education and training and April 26 for all youth sector activities.



Mar 08

We can prevent suicides and save lives

SamaritansNetwork Rail, British Transport Police, Samaritans and many others are working together to try to prevent suicides on our railways. Such deaths are deeply traumatic for families and for the staff who deal with them.

These efforts are getting results. By working together, raising awareness and providing the right information and support, deaths by suicide on our railways have reduced by almost 20 per cent.

I am a supporter of the Zero Suicide Alliance, which makes the simple, compelling argument that one suicide is one too many. As we know from the experience on our railways, suicide is preventable not inevitable.

I am a member of Parliament’s Health Select Committee which held an inquiry into suicide prevention and made recommendations at the end of last year. The main thrust was the need for a national strategy for suicide prevention, supported by deliverable actions.

The vast majority – 95 per cent – of local authorities have suicide prevention plans, but there is no quality assurance or way of ensuring high standards.

Public Health England needs to develop some quality standards to assess local plans, and an implementation board to oversee the national strategy. We recommended that local Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees should look into local plans, to ensure plans are driven locally, not top-down.

Government’s funding for suicide prevention is welcome, of course. However, the Health select Committee was concerned that it wouldn’t be enough to fund the level of activity needed to reduce suicide by 10 per cent overall by 2021.Rail suicide

Suicide prevention on the railways, in our hospitals, in our communities can’t be achieved on the cheap. Investment is needed to save lives.

Lots of people and organisations need to be involved and they need to work together in the same common cause.

For instance, we know that when people are discharged from inpatient care, they are at increased risk of suicide. We know this because hospitals, coroners and others have been encouraged to share the data so that researchers can uncover the key risk factors. That, in turn, allows people to be supported through care plans that reach out from the hospital and into the community, involving lots of organisations.

Of course, even the most joined-up, evidence-based approach requires enough trained mental health staff.

People who self-harm are often at risk of suicide. So the Health select Committee was clear in its recommendations that everyone going to A&E with self-harm must have a psychosocial assessment and a safety plan.

The committee also recognised the need for high quality support for all those bereaved by suicide with every local authority plan recognising their needs.

The media has a crucial role in preventing suicide too, by making sure that its reporting does not encourage or facilitate copycat suicides by, for instance, going into detail about methods. The Samaritans has produced Guidelines for the Responsible Reporting of Suicide and these should be widely distributed.

Social media companies also have a responsibility to remove harmful content and enforce a strict standard on material likely to encourage suicidal thoughts.

The health select committee will not let the issue drop and will hold another inquiry to check on progress towards the government’s target.

The suicide prevention campaign by Network Rail and the rest of the rail industry shows what can be done with focussed effort, joined-up working, investment, and, crucially, involving campaigners and families. It was a privilege to speak at their campaign event in Parliament this week and to support their #SmallTalkSavesLives campaign. You can watch the video here.

Progress is possible. Suicide can be prevented. Together, we can save lives.


Mar 08

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved and recommit to what still needs to be done.

In Britain this year we have celebrated the centenary of some women getting the vote for the first time, and recommitted to achieving political equality in and out of Parliament.

Much has been achieved, but much has still to be done.

It was previous Labour governments that:

  • Introduced Britain’s first ever national minimum wage;
  • Created over 3,000 Sure Start Children’s Centres;
  • Raised universal child benefit to a record high
  • Introduced the Equality Act that modernised legislation to bar discrimination against women in the workplace.

However, it is the Tory government that continues to push through economic policies that have a disproportionately detrimental impact on women and risk rolling back decades of gains.

Here in Britain, we need to remember the real difference Labour would make to women’s lives, at home, in the workplace and in our communities.International women's day

And we must remember the ‘international’ in International Women’s Day. The United Nations is committed to ensuring that by 2030 all girls and boys across the world complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

The UN points out that a quarter of the world’s population is women living in rural areas. It says that the time is now to focus on transforming these lives.

In the UK, we may take for granted the fact that our schools and education systems are open to boys and girls, that is still not the case in too many parts of the world where, like here in the past, it is a right that has to be struggled for.

The UN is also calling for an end all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls everywhere, including trafficking and sexual exploitation and harassment.

What we have seen this year is a new determination to end sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. Celebrities and film stars have been making the headlines, but the #metoo campaign has given many women in all industries and workplaces a renewed confidence to challenge oppressive practices.

Of course, what benefits women benefits everyone. Votes for all. Education for all. Workplaces free from bullying and societies free from sexual exploitation are good for us all.

I will be sharing experiences and celebrating today with women in Liverpool at Blackburne House where health, social inclusion, arts, craft, good food, good company and friendly debate and discussion are on offer, free, from 10am-1pm. You can out more by clicking here.

I wish everyone a wonderful International Women’s Day and let’s all recommit ourselves to a fairer, more equal world free from discrimination.



Feb 21

Let’s love our seas, once again

Plasticus 1I have signed a pledge to #PassOnPlastic, a commitment to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

That means a Valentine’s Day promise to reduce the use of plastic straws and plastic cutlery and starting to love our rivers, seas and environment again.

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes that can add up to so much more.

The #PassOnPlastic pledge has been signed by 113 MPs, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.

Plasticus, a whale made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second – arrived outside Parliament to bring to life the scale of the problem.

The campaign to reduce all of our plastic use is very important and I am looking at more ways to reduce my own plastic consumption.

It is deeply worrying that there are 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, with 8 million tonnes more ending up there every year.

We all have a role to play in protecting our oceans – that’s why I have signed my pledge to #PassOnPlastic and encourage others to do the same.

Feb 19

Making plans to defeat cancer

I met with Cancer Research UK researchers and ambassadors last week in the build up to World Cancer Day on February 4 to hear how international collaboration is vital in beating the disease.World Cancer Day Luciana B

World Cancer Day is designed to raise awareness of cancer and to promote its prevention, detection and treatment.

I’ve been wearing my Unity Band with its classic reef knot design to with pride to symbolise the strength of people coming together to defeat cancer. Money raised through Unity Band donations will help fund more research, more treatments and more cures – ultimately helping to save more lives.

One in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. Although survival rates have doubled since the early 1970s, everyone needs to act to help speed up progress and see more people survive the disease.

Cancer waiting times exist so that people referred by their GP get swift diagnosis and treatment, but the national target of 62 days is being regularly missed nationally, but here in Liverpool is being met.

However, in Liverpool we need to get better at spotting cancers early. More than one in five people presents as an emergency case, often when the cancer has developed dangerously.

Better cancer treatment requires planning to attract and keep the best staff so that we can improve public awareness and screening programmes, and ensure that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.

The government published its cancer workforce plan in December last year. If implemented in full, it could save 30,000 more lives per year by 2020.

However, the government has repeatedly missed the national cancer target since January 2014. In the past year, waiting lists have topped 4 million, the number of patients spending more than four hours in A&E has risen 250 per cent and the Royal College of Nursing has warned of a 40,000 shortfall of nursing staff.

NHS England has already warned that treatment targets cannot be met and other benchmarks and standards may be at risk because the Chancellor did not provide the NHS with the money experts said it required at the Autumn Budget.

I recently raised my concerns about this with the Prime Minister, click here to see our exchange.

If the NHS is to deliver for patients and fulfil the Cancer Strategy by 2021, it is essential that Ministers fully support the cancer workforce plan with the funding needed to make its ambitions a reality and to ensure cancer diagnosis, care and outcomes are improved.

Feb 16

Listening to the concerns of school students

Phoenix PrimaryOne of the best bits of my job as a local MP is visiting schools and listening to the concerns of students.

I recently visted Phoenix Primary, where Year 2 students had been discussing the litter that they, and all of us, find so annoying on the streets.Jack Christian Smith

They had been reading a story called The Tin Forest and had discussed the recycling issues that it brought up. They went on to research the impacts litter has on both land and sea, and wanted to talk their thoughts over with their Member of Parliament.

It was clear when I dropped in that litter and promoting recycling were issues that the students felt very passionately about, and I took away lots of ideas.

We talked about what the government can do to support local councils, what schools can do to educate their students and agreed that we all had to take responsibility for not littering in the first place, because it is not fair to expect others to clear up the mess we make.

Lois MeiWhile at the school, I took the chance to thank Joel Doody, 7, for his design for my Christmas card which won a runners-up certificate this year. It was a thrill to meet him and so many lively young people who are rightly the pride of their school.Rafael Hauta

The Christmas card was sent out to over 2,500 local and national contacts and helped to raise the profiles of our Liverpool Wavertree schools locally and nationally.

Each year, I encourage schools across the constituency to help me design the card, and last year had a fantastic 470 entries.

The winner was Savannah Mannhart, age 7, from St. Sebastian’s Primary School who has received book vouchers. In addition to Joel Doody, there were three more wonderful runners-up who also received book vouchers and a certificate – Lois Mei, aged 10, from Rudston Primary; Jack Christian Smith, aged 10, from Heygreen Primary School and Rafael Hauta, aged 9, from St Hugh’s Primary School.

Thank you to everyone who entered and to all the teachers and staff that helped make the competition such a success. I look forward to visiting more schools across the constituency throughout the year.

Feb 16

The epidemic of our time

The lack of emotional support available to pregnant and post-natal women is a serious concern. At a recent Liverpool conference organised by the Improving Me Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership, it was described as ‘the epidemic of our time’.

As I told Parliament during a recent debate on maternity leave, I have had a baby, and as a new Mum, I have been acutely aware of the need for pregnant women and new Mums to keep a close watch on their mental health. During pregnancy and the year after birth, many women will experience common mental health problems, including anxiety disorders and depression, and Dads will too. The risk of developing a severe mental health condition, such as postpartum psychosis, schizophrenia, severe depression or bipolar disorder, increases after childbirth. For women, it is the time that we are most likely to experience those conditions. You can read more about the debate here.

Of course, the government says it is boosting funding to mental health, but my concern is what is happening on the front-line, and I hear again and again that services are under enormous pressures and strains. For instance, in relation to children’s mental health, the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt again made the funding claim in Parliament. I told him about Liverpool’s Young Person’s Advisory Service, which is the main service for young people’s mental health in the city. It has seen a £757,000 cut – 43 per cent – of its budget in this financial year. In fact, there are now 412 children in Liverpool waiting more than 28 weeks for an assessment – and that’s before they get access to treatment. You can read the exchange here.

The Liverpool conference brought together clinicians, academics, community partners and local families to focus together on the mental health provision accessible to women before, during and after pregnancy. It encouraged more integrated working across geographical and organisational boundaries to help improve experiences for all women.

The first 1,001 days of a child’s life, from conception to age two, still largely determines their life chances and life outcome, which means it is crucial that emotional and mental health support is readily accessible to women before, during and after pregnancy.

The conference saw the Merseyside launch of The Female Mind: a Users’ Guide – a new book published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists which explores themes such as anxiety, motherhood, eating disorders and living positively with mental illness.

It’s great to see those on the frontline exploring new ways of working for local women’s and children’s services. I’m determined to play my part in making sure that the government provides the right support needed to make change happen.

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