Aug 26

The government needs to come clean on the NHS

Tory promises to protect our National Health Service are proving worthless.NHS-RGB (2)

Behind the scenes and without proper public consultation the government is drawing up Sustainability and Transformation Plans for local NHS Trusts that will see many services merged and others closed altogether.

The plans are being drawn up against the backdrop of lengthening patient queues, missed treatment targets, staff shortages and financial deficits. The Tory government has told the NHS to save £22 billion, despite the population growing, ageing and high risk health concerns like diabetes and dementia increasing pressure on hard-pressed staff, as well as significant cuts to social care and public health.

There needs to be full patient and public involvement in the plans so that the services we all rely on are protected and to prevent Cinderella services – like mental health – being singled out for cuts.

We need to bring physical health, mental health and social care together in a seamless wrap-around service that looks after people, prevents ill health in the first place and saves money in the longer term.

Instead of working collaboratively with local authorities to promote prevention and find lasting solutions, the government is putting pressure on the NHS to find short-term, short-sighted savings that will cost us all more in the future.

The government needs to come clean and publish its plans for the NHS.

Aug 22

Government obesity strategy fails children

NHS eat well plateThe government’s long-delayed Childhood Obesity Strategy was eventually published last week – with ministers away on holiday and Parliament not sitting.

The government strategy has been delayed three times, and is a woefully inadequate response to the looming health crisis our country faces. No wonder the government wanted to sneak it out and ministers have failed to promote it.

The strategy includes providing an extra £10 million nationally for school breakfast clubs from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. This amounts to as little as £1.28 per pupil per year. A weak response to a major national problem that will worsen for future generations.

The strategy also focuses disproportionately on physical activity. Sport and exercise are important for our mental health and for reducing the inflammation in our cells but has little impact in terms of reducing weight (exercise only contributes 10-20 per cent). What is critical is reducing the amount of sugar, fat and salt in young people’s diets.

Obesity, and particular childhood obesity, is one of the biggest public health challenges facing our country. Last year, the Department of Health spent £5.1 billion on obesity related illnesses. Obesity is ruining the quality of life for growing numbers of people.

Yet, rather than tackle the issue and ensure that food and drink companies improve the nutritional content of foods marketed to children, the government relied on a ‘Responsibility Deal’ with industry that was voluntary. It didn’t succeed.

I consistently warned the government in Parliament that it needed to face up to its failed strategy. You can read my exchange with the government’s then Public Health Minister by clicking here. Or watch it by clicking here.

The most recent statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal that one in five children in Reception, and one in three children in Year 6, were measured as obese or overweight in 2014/15.

There are very serious and potentially life-threatening conditions associated with obesity, including diabetes and some cancer types.

We need a proper strategy to tackle the issue. One that is based on a comprehensive and broad approach that helps families, schools and children make the right decisions and supports healthy eating.

The last Labour government introduced a dedicated obesity strategy in 2004 – ‘Choosing Health’ – which included a target to halt the increase in child obesity for under 11s, as well as the Change4Life programme in 2009 to help promote and market healthy eating.

Today, we need more action on information, advertising and labelling. That is why at the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to set maximum permitted levels of sugar, salt and fat in foods marketed substantially to children.

The government’s soft drinks industry levy can only help tackle childhood obesity if it is part of a wider strategy that includes action on many other things.

We need real and urgent action from the government. I will continue to press the government to act when Parliament returns.

Aug 19

People are waiting longer for treatment

NHS-RGB (2)New figures released by the government in the past week show that almost 100,000 patients are now waiting over 18 weeks for elective surgical procedures

This compares to the over 51,000 patients who had to wait over 18 weeks for these procedures, which include hip replacements, knee replacements, hernias, adenoid and tonsillectomies, in 2014.

Indeed, the average waiting time for those five procedures is now over 100 days, causing people unnecessary distress and anxiety.

The figures are a scandal and show the government’s failure to protect the National Health Service.

The most commonly cited cause cited for planned operations being cancelled was equipment shortages or lack of beds. Hospitals are understaffed and facing financial crisis.

The Tories really can’t be trusted with the NHS. When Parliament returns in September, I will be seeking to hold the government to account for these lengthy delays.

Jul 22

Mental health writing competition has a new twist

Mental health and me 2016The Mental Health and Me writing competition organised by Writing on the Wall is back in 2016 – with a new twist.

This year, the competition is organised around three categories – Faces, Places or Spaces.

The judges are looking for people with real or fictionalised experiences of one of the themes to enter a short story, poem, spoken word piece, tweet, journalism piece, blog post, a diary entry or a letter.

The organisers say that the people we meet and relationships we keep, the places we visit or inhabit, and the spaces we go to or even the mental spaces we hold within, will mean something different to everyone and spark a breadth of creativity.

I was pleased to take part in the awards ceremony last year, as part of the week long Liverpool Mental Health Festival.

Now in its third year, the competition has succeeded in attracting a great range of entries and encouraging people to find new ways to express themselves.

If you think you might be interested but are a little unsure if it is right for you, the organisers are offering a creative writing workshop to boost people’s confidence on Wednesday August 17. The deadline for entries is Thursday September 1.

The overall winner receives a trophy, and book tokens from Liverpool’s independent book store, News from Nowhere. All shortlisted entries will be included in an anthology, published by Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and Writing on the Wall. Once the winner has been announced free hard copies will be available to everyone included in the anthology, which will also be made available online.

To find out more click here.

Jul 21

Find our young humanitarian citizen 2016

Britisah Red CrossThe British Red Cross is searching for young people who have made a big contribution to our local community.

Each year, the British Red Cross celebrates the achievements of young people in one of four categories – first aid, volunteering, community action, and fundraising – with its Humanitarian Citizen Award.

All nominees will receive a certificate celebrating their nomination and their achievements will be featured in Red Cross publications.

The final awards will be made at a ceremony in the House of Commons on November 15.

If you know of an individual or group who deserve to be considered, you can nominate direct by clicking here. The deadline for nominations is Sunday August 7.

If you love photography, you can enter the British Red Cross annual photography and video competition, which runs alongside the Humanitarian Award. It is open to young people up to the age of 25. The theme this year is ‘making a difference matters’.

Prizes will be awarded in two age categories: 17 and under, and 18 to 25. You can find out how to send your video or photograph by clicking here.


Jun 24

Liverpool votes to remain, UK to leave

Liverpool voted to remain in the European Union by 118,453 (58.2 per cent) votes to 85,101 votes (41.8 per cent) on a turnout of 64 per cent, but the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union.Luciana Berger Metro Mayor campaign.

I campaigned hard for a remain vote.

I am obviously bitterly disappointed that our success here in Liverpool was not reflected across the country.

These are going to be difficult times for our City Region.

In the short term our priority must be to stabilise the local economy and protect jobs.

We then need to secure the best possible deal for our city region and the UK as a whole in the negotiations that will follow with our partners across the EU.

I, and the whole Labour Party, will be committed to protecting people’s jobs, pensions, our NHS and other public services and to preserve the best of our relationships with the rest of the world.

We must listen to what the referendum result tells us and renew our commitment to building communities that are based on common interests and not conflict.

We must take control of our own future and negotiate city-city and region-region trade agreements across the EU and wider world that make the most of our assets.

We need a Liverpool City Region that breaks down the barriers affecting our people and trade like never before.

Jun 23

Today, vote to Remain in the European Union

Vote posterballotToday we have the chance to vote for the country we are proud to live in – one that reaches out to the rest of the world, trades freely and believes that together we can achieve more than we ever could isolated and alone.

The Labour shadow Cabinet, Labour MPs and trade union leaders representing six million workers are all united in a simple clear message – we are better off in the European Union.

I hope that you will join with me and vote Remain today, and encourage your family, neighbours, friends and work colleagues to do so too.

Jun 22

EU membership protects jobs and rights

Union Jack backgroundMembership of the European Union protects up to 3 million jobs in the UK, including 350,000 here in the North West.

Our membership limits excessive working hours, protects paid holidays, maternity leave and equal rights for part-time workers.

Around 200,000 people work part time in the Liverpool City Region, the vast majority of whom are women. The right of part time workers to access pension schemes was secured following an EU ruling which found the exclusion of part time workers from pension schemes to be discriminatory

The right of women to return to the same job after maternity leave, rather than being treated as new employees, was also secured through European law

The EU also gives us the chance to create another 790,000 jobs by 2030 through opening up markets in tourism, digital services and green energy – just the sectors our region can excel in.

The decision our country makes tomorrow will affect us all.

The Labour shadow Cabinet, Labour MPs and trade union leaders representing six million workers are all united in a simple clear message – we are better off in the European Union.

A Remain vote tomorrow will secure employment rights and create the chance to build a better future.

I hope that you will join me in voting Remain.

Jun 21

Vote Remain to protect our mental health services

Luciana Berger speaks to conference goers at the Liverpool City Region mental health and place making conference today

Luciana Berger speaks to conference goers at the Liverpool City Region mental health and place making conference today

Local mental health services will be seriously threatened if the UK votes to leave the European Union on Thursday.

As Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health I witness increasingly pressured mental health services across the country.

They are too vital and too fragile to be thrown into the chaos that would ensue following a leave vote.

New figures I uncovered from the government show that the number of antidepressant prescriptions in our region has leapt by 30 per cent in the past five years, compared to the increase of 22 per cent across England as a whole.

I believe that the growing pressure on mental health services in Merseyside is such that local services will struggle to withstand the instability and insecurity that will come from ‘Brexit’.

In the past five years, pressure on our mental health services has grown more than in the rest of the country. We simply cannot afford for these vital services, and the people who rely on them, to be placed at any further risk.

The Chief Executive of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens has warned that Brexit would send the economy into a ‘tailspin.’ That would damage funding for mental health.

Funding for our local mental health services is already incredibly tight and not sufficient to meet the complex needs of a growing number of mental health patients in our region. Our mental health services need stability and security, not the chaos and uncertainty that will ensue if we leave the European Union on Thursday.

There are 4,500 NHS hospital and community health staff in the North West who are from other EU countries, including 1,100 doctors and over 1,500 nurses. The do a vital job but Brexit will be put their work at risk.

I know from meeting mental health service users, carers and staff in our region that we are facing a real shortage of mental health nurses, psychiatrists, psychological therapists and social workers. If we were to vote to leave, we could lose many of the staff from across the EU who ensure NHS services in our region can function.

Numerous legal frameworks, including the European Convention on Human Rights, which have protected mental health patients across the Liverpool City Region for decades, would be at risk if Britain left the European Union:

A vote to leave the EU on Thursday would threaten the legal frameworks which have quietly been safeguarding and bolstering the rights of psychiatric service users in our region for decades.

Please join me on Thursday in voting to Remain and protect our vital health services.

Jun 16

We are better off in the European Union

Today we have just one week left to make sure that Britain remains in the European Union, retains its vital trading links with the biggest single market in the world and protects the hundreds of thousands of jobs here in the North West that depend on our membership.

The Labour shadow Cabinet, Labour MPs and trades union leaders representing six million workers are united in a simple clear message – we are better off in the European Union.ClDiByqUgAAXFeW

There is no doubt that a Tory government faced with a leave vote will slash and burn our vital public services, slice and dice the National Health Service and create a bonfire of the rights at work that are underpinned by the European Union.

A leave vote will risk a panic response from a defeated Tory party leadership that will try to prop up the government through an emergency Budget.

The Chancellor George Osborne has said as much, threatening to push up the basic rate of income tax, cut spending on the police, transport and local government by 5 per cent, and ‘slash’ education, defence and NHS spending.

It is a price that people struggling to rebuild their lives from years of Tory cuts and economic mismanagement cannot afford to pay.

That is why, whatever the Tory divisions and misinformation being produced, Labour’s case for a remain vote on June 23 is clear, straightforward and worth repeating again and again:

  • Protecting paid holidays, maternity leave, equal rights for part-time workers and limiting excessive hours.
  • The protection of up to 3 million jobs in the UK that are linked to the European Union, including 350,000 here in the North West;
  • The chance to create another 790,000 jobs by 2030 through opening up markets in tourism, digital services and green energy, just the sectors our region can excel in.

If you haven’t had the EU referendum conversation with your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues, please do so.

A remain vote next Thursday is vital to protect today’s jobs and rights at work as well as the prospects for our future generations.

Older posts «