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Oral Answers to Questions
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Tuesday 23 July 2019

(7 months ago)

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Commons Chamber
Department of Health and Social Care
Seema Kennedy Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 11:47 a.m.

As I said to the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members in the Westminster Hall debate on the drug, a deal is the preferred option. However, the attitude taken by Vertex, which has been called an outlier in this situation, means that my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary has instructed NHS England to look at other options.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 11:48 a.m.

Over the past three years, all of us in this House have heard the numerous calls for Orkambi to be made available to cystic fibrosis patients. The Minister could go down in history if she takes the all-important step this week, while still in her job—I hope she will still be in the job tomorrow—of announcing an alternative route to access cystic fibrosis drugs, such as Crown use licence or clinical trials. Today, before we break for recess, will she commit to that so that families can have Orkambi now?

Seema Kennedy Parliament Live - Hansard

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence process is important, because it is an independent expert review and the way in which we allocate resources sensibly. The Crown use licence is not a quick or easy solution, and it is open to legal challenge, which might delay things even more. Vertex has been offered the biggest settlement in NHS history, and I urge the company to accept it. However—I have said this on numerous occasions from this Dispatch Box and in Westminster Hall—the Secretary of State has urged and asked NHS England to look at other options, such as the ones to which the shadow Minister has referred.

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Batten Disease
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Monday 22 July 2019

(7 months ago)

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Commons Chamber
Home Office
Seema Kennedy Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 4:14 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his questions. I will attempt to answer all of them.

In terms of governance, no, NICE is not above accountability. Ministers set the framework for NICE, which is a non-departmental body. The reason it was established was to have fairness—so that there was no postcode lottery on access to various drugs. It is important that medical experts and scientists make these decisions rather than politicians. Regular governance meetings are held between the Department and NICE. There is a framework agreement. Where the Secretary of State considers that NICE is failing, or has failed, to discharge its functions or to do so properly, he can direct NICE to discharge functions. If NICE were to fail to comply with the Secretary of State’s direction in those circumstances, he could discharge such functions himself. There is therefore a strong and robust governance system with regard to NICE.

It is not always very helpful to use other jurisdictions as a comparison because we do not know the exact price that has been agreed. In addition, different systems have different healthcare populations and do not necessarily have the equivalent of our national health service.

Turning to access to Brineura, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and to Max’s family. I know from the very moving testimony by him and by other hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) and from speaking to my constituent Melanie on numerous occasions that this is an absolutely dreadful disease. That is why we want the NICE process to be able to bring drugs to market as quickly as possible. Drug companies find this drug difficult to develop—that it is very expensive. It is not necessarily a drug that will be paid for by having millions of sufferers globally, and therefore a different system needs to be in place. That is why the bar for QALY is so much higher.

My hon. Friend’s suggestion on arbitration is very interesting, and I will take it away. On NHS England and the negative procedure, yes, in theory we could do that, but it is unlikely if NICE does not recommend a process. Overall, where a drugs company and NICE are unable to come to an agreement—we see this with other medication as well—Ministers urge the company to carry on negotiating to have a fair price, because every pound spent on one drug is a pound that we cannot spend on a drug for another sick person.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 4:17 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I thank and congratulate the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) for securing it following his Adjournment debate last week. I do not doubt that he would have preferred the Minister to have come before the House voluntarily, rather than being forced to come here today for his urgent question.

Time and again, we come to this place to talk about a drug and its benefits to patients, only to be told that no matter how good it is, people cannot access it on the NHS. Among all the politics, there are people, including children like Max, who are suffering. No parent wants to hear a critical diagnosis for their child who has not yet really experienced childhood, let alone reached adulthood.

As we have heard, Brineura, a drug made available by BioMarin, could stop the progression of Batten disease. An assessment by NICE has found that Brineura could provide 30 extra years of good-quality life to patients. But, as has become expected when we discuss drugs for rare diseases in this place, Brineura is not available for patients on the NHS. NICE confirmed earlier this year that it was unable to recommend the use of Brineura on the NHS because of cost-effectiveness. The drug costs over £500,000 per person for each year’s treatment. BioMarin has another drug for rare diseases—Kuvan, for patients with phenylketonuria, or PKU. PKU patients do not have access to Kuvan, because it is also deemed not to be cost-effective. Does the Minister agree that the NICE appraisal process is just not fit for purpose when it comes to assessing the suitability of drugs and treatments for rare diseases?

Access to Brineura would help to give patients and families their child back, and it would allow them to enjoy time with their child and treasure special moments with them. As time ticks on without access to the drug, parents will witness their child’s condition deteriorate. No parent wants to see that, so we really need an appraisal process that captures rare diseases effectively.

Will the Minister step in and personally urge BioMarin, NHS England and NICE to meet and come to an agreement? Families do not just want warm words from the Minister; they want and need access to medicines now. I hope that this urgent question will result in real change in how we address rare diseases.

Seema Kennedy Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 4:21 p.m.

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), I urged BioMarin to get back around the table with NHSE and NICE and come to a fair and reasonable price. NICE has already approved drugs for 75% of rare diseases through its technology appraisal programme, including drugs for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and neuroblastoma. NICE’s process and review methods are constantly reviewed, and they are internationally respected. NICE knows that it has to keep up to date with developments in science, medicine and healthcare. There is a periodic review going on at the moment, and that includes extensive engagement with stakeholders.

See more like "Genetic Haemochromatosis"

Genetic Haemochromatosis
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Wednesday 03 July 2019

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Westminster Hall
Home Office
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
3 Jul 2019, 5:23 p.m.

Excellent. If something is worth saying, it is worth saying more than once.

With early diagnosis in mind, I have a number of questions for the Minister; I will rattle through them quickly. What assessment has she made of the diagnosis pathway for patients suspected of having GH? How early are patients diagnosed after presenting with symptoms, and which diagnosis route is the most successful and least painful and invasive for patients? Is that diagnosis route available across NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups? When someone is diagnosed, is it routine for their family to be tested and treated?

GH can be aggravated by environmental and lifestyle factors, so can the Minister assure the House that patients with GH are clearly advised on how to care for themselves if they have the disorder? Are patients given direct advice on their diet and on alcohol and tobacco consumption? As we have heard, that can make the condition easier to manage, if the advice is taken on board, of course—often people do not want to hear what is good for them, myself included. Where necessary, is support available to help patients reduce their alcohol consumption and to quit smoking?

As we know, diet, alcohol and tobacco consumption have huge health implications for all society and cost the NHS millions in treatment. It is therefore crucial that public health services are available to everyone to allow them to live heathier lives, especially patients with GH, who are more susceptible to health problems relating to the heart and liver.

I never miss an opportunity to call on the Minister once again—if she can; it might be above her pay grade—to reverse the public health budget cuts that have decimated our vital public health services. I also urge her to ensure that when the prevention Green Paper is published—I have heard rumours that it could be as early as Monday—patients with any existing conditions are also taken into consideration for prevention, so that their symptoms can be controlled, too. I look forward to her response.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Seema Kennedy) Hansard
3 Jul 2019, 5:23 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I know that I am pressed for time, so if I do not respond to all comments I will happily write to hon. Members. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) for securing this important debate on genetic haemochromatosis. I also thank his fellow members of the APPG and all right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in the debate for highlighting the disease, which affects so many of us. The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) in particular, with her scientific knowledge, made a very good speech.

The Government are dedicated to improving the lives of all patients who live with rare diseases, as set out in the NHS long-term plan and the rare diseases strategy. Clearly, early diagnosis and treatment is key to prevent the development of the conditions that can arise from GH. I hope to be able to answer all the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and others.

One part of diagnosis is genetic testing. That is a more recent development in haemochromatosis and is used to determine whether a mutation in the HFE gene is present, which can lead to iron overload. In January 2019 the NHS long-term plan set out the ambition to focus targeted investment in areas of innovation, including genomics. Last year NHS England launched its genomics medicines service, making the UK the first country in the world to integrate whole genome sequencing into routine clinical care. The GMS aims to provide consistent and equitable access to cutting-edge genomic testing to England’s population.

The first national genomic test directory, which underpins this service, was published in March 2019. It specifies which genomic tests are commissioned by the NHS in England, the technology by which they are available and the patients who will be eligible to access them. GH is included in the directory. To ensure that the directory remains at the cutting edge, it will be updated on an annual basis to keep pace with scientific and technological advances. We are developing a national genomic healthcare strategy, which is overseen by Baroness Blackwood, and that is happening alongside work with the Office for Life Sciences.

Hon. Members have referred to the UK National Screening Committee’s 2016 evidence about whether testing should be offered—as the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton said, that raises massive ethical questions. That was because not all people with the faulty HFE gene—as somebody who is half-Irish, I am now concerned—will go on to develop the condition. At the time, no evidence was found that provided that committee with evidence that a screening programme would be effective. However, it is important to take account of new evidence and developments as they emerge. The screening committee is always keen to consider new research and will be looking at new evidence to screen for hereditary haemochromatosis in 2019-20. I assure the House that I will follow that with great interest.

GH is not currently part of the NHS health check, but Public Health England routinely publishes open calls for proposals for new content to include in the check, which they consider in view of evidence, cost, clinical effectiveness, feasibility of implementation and health equity. On NICE guidelines, the British Society for Haematology has already published guidelines on the management of GH. They were last updated in 2018. NHS England is the body with responsibility for commissioning new clinical guidelines from NICE. If anyone considers that guidance from NICE would add value, proposals for such guidelines can be made to NHSE.

The shadow Minister made some points about the public health budget and the Green Paper, which we have often discussed. They will of course be subject to best evidence in the spending review. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby talked about patient blood meeting ongoing national needs for donated blood, red blood types and associated blood products. NHS Blood and Transplant has been working in close partnership with Haemochromatosis UK to engage with patients with GH and to inform them that they are able to have their blood removed through blood donation. During National Blood Week in June this year, articles and social media posts were used to inform patients about the procedure for donating blood at a blood donation centre. NHSBT is continuing its work to ensure that patients are informed about the life-saving gift that they can give.

Patients who want to donate blood instead of having venesections have to meet the criteria set out by NHS Blood and Transplant for all donors, and they are advised to have iron check-ups with their consultant. Patients who want to donate blood need to call the NHS Blood and Transplant national call centre to inform it of their condition. That will allow the haemochromatosis patient to donate blood at a donation centre more frequently than the rest of the population.

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members and the members of Haemochromatosis UK who have helped us to raise awareness of this condition, because there is a significant gap in our understanding. Hon. Members have rightly pointed out that this is the first time we have discussed GH in this House. I fully recognise the need to raise awareness about GH among healthcare professionals and to provide training. I reassure the House that the Government are committed to ensuring that those affected by rare diseases receive high-quality care.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered genetic haemochromatosis.

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Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Tuesday 25 June 2019

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Westminster Hall
Department of Health and Social Care
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
25 Jun 2019, 5:11 p.m.

I was not aware of that, but my hon. Friend has put it out there on the record. I had heard, though, that 5G can go through us, where other things go around us, so it cannot go through trees but it can go through humans. There is a lot more we need to know about the technology.

As I was saying, anything that looks at this must be cross-departmental because of the impact on health, business, digital and the environment. Each of the Departments responsible for those areas should consider the health implications of electromagnetic fields, whether it is for a small minority of the population or the majority. Is that something the Minister has considered?

As we roll out digital technology, particularly in rural areas, the protection of white zones should be considered. We can be world leaders in digital, but that must not be at the expense of health and wellbeing. I therefore urge the Minister to ensure that all the information about the health and wellbeing impacts of electromagnetic fields is made available to the public, and kept under constant review as we find out more. I also urge her to work with her colleagues, across several Departments, to ensure that health and wellbeing is prioritised throughout the digital roll-out.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Seema Kennedy) Hansard
25 Jun 2019, 5:09 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for securing the debate and giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject.

People are exposed to radio waves in the home, at work and throughout their daily lives. As the hon. Member for Gower mentioned, people have been talking about the issues for about 100 years, since early in the last century, but the numbers of devices and transmitters have increased rapidly, and the pace of change in how this technology becomes part of our lives can be very unsettling to some. People ask whether radio wave exposure levels are increasing and whether there could be health consequences, and I want to put on record right at the beginning that, very importantly, radio waves are non-ionising radiation. That means that the packets of energy that form the radiation are too small to break chemical bonds: the radiation cannot damage cells and cause cancer in the same way as ionising radiation. Even so, there are concerns that this type of radiation could have health effects, and a great deal of research has been done in the United Kingdom and around the world to clarify the matter, which is something the Government take very seriously.

A number of issues, both for my Department and for colleagues in others, have been raised during the debate, and I will try to address them. I will also pass them on to colleagues.

Health concerns about electromagnetic fields have been raised in relation to each successive wave of new communications services, from 2G to 3G and 4G mobile phone networks, and with wi-fi, smart meters and now 5G. I have certainly noticed the growing number of letters I have received from parliamentary colleagues, passing on their constituents’ concerns, and I am grateful for the opportunity to address some of them today.

Concerns about telecommunications networks first came to the fore in the late 1990s. A report containing an evidence review and recommendations was prepared for Government by the independent expert group on mobile phones, under the chairmanship of Sir William Stewart. A major research programme was undertaken and the international exposure guidelines were adopted, with a commitment from industry that they would be followed. Although many new services and technologies have been launched, the basic way they are delivered—by radio—has not changed, and the science of how radio waves affect the body does not change when a new technology is launched. However, the Government take people’s health concerns about electromagnetic fields very seriously. They have committed, and continue to commit, significant resources to supporting research and analysis on the topic, and policies are in place to ensure the exposure guidelines are followed.

Public Health England monitors the health-related evidence and collaborates internationally to ensure that any important new evidence is identified and responded to.

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Childhood Obesity
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Tuesday 18 June 2019

(8 months ago)

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Commons Chamber
Department of Health and Social Care
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
18 Jun 2019, 12:24 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Government’s second childhood obesity plan will celebrate its first birthday a week today, but we will not be celebrating. The Government have ducked and dived on their responsibility to the children in this country and have failed to produce any policies as a result of the six consultations the plan has promised, but the rate of childhood obesity is still at a record high. Instead of waiting for the chief medical officer to report on obesity, will the Government act now to tackle the childhood obesity crisis, and introduce and implement the policies they have consulted on already?

Seema Kennedy Hansard

We have a very ambitious aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030. We are still considering all the answers to the consultations, and we are hoping to respond to them very shortly.

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Public Health: County Durham
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Wednesday 12 June 2019

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Westminster Hall
Department of Health and Social Care
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard

Yes, I will. I ask the Minister: when will the Government agree a future funding settlement for public health? I am under the impression that this has been postponed now until after the leadership contest. Local authorities and public health services need to know where they stand. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham said when he opened the debate, we cannot have County Durham or other local authorities being left behind any longer.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Seema Kennedy) Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 5:10 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I thank the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) for raising this important issue, and the hon. Members for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) for their contributions.

The Government fully appreciate the importance of protecting and improving the health of the population. We share hon. Members’ commitment to prevention and public health, which this debate has highlighted. The costs, both to individual lives and to the NHS, are simply too great to ignore.

The population in England is growing, ageing and diversifying rapidly. Some 40% of morbidity is preventable, and 60% of 60-year-olds have at least one long-term condition. Helping people to stay well, in work and in their own homes for longer is vital. As hon. Members have highlighted, the gap in healthy life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas of England is approximately 19 years for both sexes. As somebody who was born in Lancashire and represents a Lancashire seat, I see that disparity in my constituency. It is a great motivating factor for me in my role, as it was for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she set her grand challenge of extending a person’s period of healthy, independent and active life by five years by 2035.

However, we will not achieve that by simply adding five extra years at the end of life; as with many things, the earlier we start, the more we stand to gain. Investment in early years and onwards is essential if we want positively to influence future lifestyle choices, prevent disabling conditions and enable people to contribute fully to society. We must continue to focus our efforts on areas such as digital technology and behavioural science so that we can show the public that the healthy choice is the easy choice.

We are doing work—on childhood obesity, smoking, air quality and more—that has the potential to make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing. The amount of sugar in drinks has been reduced by 11% and average calories per portion have been cut by 6% in response to our soft drinks industry levy. By 2020, the NHS diabetes prevention programme will support 100,000 people at risk of diabetes each year across England. Last year’s ambitious prevention vision statement and the forthcoming prevention Green Paper will enable us to meet the ageing grand challenge and address health inequalities, supporting people to live longer, healthier lives.

We recognise that the funding position for local authorities is extremely challenging and understand the huge efforts that local government has made to focus on securing best value for every pound it spends. The 2015 spending review made available £16 billion of funding for local authorities in England over the five-year period. I remind the House that that is in addition to the money the NHS spends, which is part of the public health offer on prevention and includes our world-leading screening and immunisation programme and the world’s first national diabetes prevention programme.

Today’s debate has highlighted an important issue about the distribution of funding for local authority public health functions. Historically, funding for public health services in the NHS was left to local decision and was not necessarily based on need, which led to wide disparities in the amount of funding dedicated locally to public health services. Before these functions were transferred to local government, we asked the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation to develop a needs-based formula for the distribution of the public health grant. The introduction of that formula meant that some local authorities received more than their target allocation under the ACRA formula and others received funding under target. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, when the overall grant was subject to growth, local authorities’ funding was iterated closer to their target through a mechanism called “pace of change”.

In 2015, ACRA was asked to update the formula to take account of the transfer of responsibility for commissioning health visiting services from NHS England to local authorities. We consulted on this formula and ACRA made recommendations to Government in 2016. I understand that the public health formula is more heavily weighted towards deprivation than either the adult social care formula or the clinical commissioning group formulation.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 5:32 p.m.

It is not working.

Seema Kennedy Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 5:32 p.m.

Of course we want evidence. The shadow Minister says from a sedentary position that it is not working. We did an impact assessment in 2015-16 and we are reviewing all the evidence in preparation for the next spending review.

Break in Debate

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 5:33 p.m.

No; I said that.

Seema Kennedy Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 5:33 p.m.

No, I was repeating what the shadow Minister had said.

The recommended formula, which would create winners and losers in terms of overall levels of funding because of the disparity in historical spend compared to current need, has not been implemented because of the Government’s intention to extend the system of retained business rates. We continue to review the position, and future spending levels will be decided as part of the spending review, where we will review all available evidence.

I commend all local authorities on the efforts they are making to improve population health, as well as third-sector groups such as the children in Cleves Cross with their edible walkways. We continue to believe that local authorities are best placed to make decisions about the services that best meet the needs of their populations.

See more like "Cystic Fibrosis Drugs: Orkambi"

Cystic Fibrosis Drugs: Orkambi
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Monday 10 June 2019

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Westminster Hall
Department of Health and Social Care
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 6:35 p.m.

I was going to come on to that, but if a point is worth making once, it is worth making twice. I will make it to the Minister as well, so she will have plenty of time to think about it.

As we all agree, patients and their families should not be put in the position—as some are—of having to pay thousands of pounds for their treatment. Family income should not determine who lives and who dies. That is why the NHS was founded—so that all could have access to the same excellent treatment, regardless of means. That was true 70 years ago when the NHS was formed, and it is still true today.

As the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam pointed out, our NHS is there for us all and should not be held to ransom by a pharmaceutical company, but neither should access be denied because of unfit processes and systems in the NHS. Over the years, as a shadow public health Minister, I have met many patient groups, including those with cystic fibrosis, who are missing out on life-changing medicines because their condition is not rare enough and is therefore not deemed by NICE to be cost-effective. We need an appraisal process that is fit for purpose and that will capture rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis effectively.

Without drugs such as Orkambi, patients and their families are being harmed physically and psychologically. Every day without the drugs that patients need makes their condition worse and threatens their lives. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that patients with rare diseases have access to the medicines that they need and deserve? It is about access not just to Orkambi, but to other precision medications such as Symkevi and the next generation of cystic fibrosis drugs that could help patients who are suffering.

Vertex recently announced the headline results for its fourth cystic fibrosis medicine, a triple combination therapy that could radically transform the lives of nine in 10 people who live with cystic fibrosis in the UK, delivering unprecedented improvements in acute lung health. That is amazing news, but patients fear that they will never be able to access this ground-breaking drug. I urge Vertex to put patients first and consider the real-life impact of this cost dispute on patients and their families.

Vertex and NHS England must come to an agreement urgently, because patients have already waited far too long. If an arrangement cannot be made soon, will the Minister personally step in and pursue the alternatives that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East mentioned, such as a Crown use licence or a clinical trial? Cystic fibrosis patients need urgent access now to the drug that they have been denied for three years. It is time the Government considered all alternatives.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Seema Kennedy) Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 6:42 p.m.

It is always a particular pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) for opening the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee. I pay tribute to the more than 100,000 people who signed the petition, and I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in the debate; I am sure that they will be rushing back for the wind-ups.

I have been very touched by the stories that we have heard today and the compassion shown by my hon. Friend and all hon. Members in speaking about cystic fibrosis and its physical effects, emotional effects and effects on mental health for those who live with it and for their families. It is a debilitating condition, and I know how absolutely desperate sufferers and families are for access to treatments.

I recognise the great work undertaken by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and its strong voice in supporting families and bringing cystic fibrosis to the attention of parliamentarians. I also pay tribute to my young constituent Lucy Baxter, who was on “BBC Breakfast” this morning and who lives with cystic fibrosis. She spoke to me very soon after I became a Member of Parliament and is an absolute inspiration to me and to the whole cystic fibrosis community.

Today’s debate has been heartfelt and passionate. The stories that we have heard clearly make the case that Orkambi and other drugs for people with cystic fibrosis should be available on the NHS at a price that is fair and affordable. The Government and I share that view. As the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), set out so clearly, we must remember that the NHS must use its budget fairly for the good of all patients. That is why we rightly have a system whereby experts, not politicians, determine the fair price for medicines, based on robust evidence. That system has helped many thousands of patients to benefit from rapid access to effective new medicines.

Break in Debate

Seema Kennedy Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 6:53 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam said in his opening speech, which was very well made, we recognise the importance of British pharmaceutical companies and that companies invest hugely in developing new drugs. However, as the other examples of drugs for rare diseases that I have given show, it is possible to go through the NICE appraisal process and reach an agreement with NHS England. As one hon. Member who is no longer in their place said, this is an offer for a long-term agreement.

Vertex is an outlier, and I would like to put that on the record.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Seema Kennedy Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 6:54 p.m.

Yes, and I hope that I will be able to remember the hon. Lady’s question.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson - Hansard

At this point I should clarify, for the benefit of the campaigners who I have spoken to about the Crown use licensing option, that it is not an immediate solution from their point of view; I understand that it would take at least a couple of years. If an agreement can be reached, there would be an immediate outcome. That is why the campaign is called Orkambi Now; it is about trying to get the drug now. Although the Crown use licensing option would be an option to consider if nothing else can be found, it would not give the sufferers and their families the drugs as quickly as we would like.

Seema Kennedy Hansard

As always, the shadow Minister makes an excellent point. Crown use licensing is not something that any Government would consider lightly. It is very rarely used in health. It has probably not been used—my officials will correct me if I am wrong—since the 1970s.

The ideal thing is to get a deal, and deals have been done with other pharmaceutical companies; that is the point I want to make. As I have said, Vertex is an outlier in this regard, but that does not mean that I do not have an obligation to look at other options. I will do that.

See more like "Health"

Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Tuesday 14 May 2019

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department of Health and Social Care
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
14 May 2019, 6:37 p.m.

I am happy to be closing an excellent debate on public health in what is, as we have heard, Mental Health Awareness Week. I thank those who have contributed to the debate: the hon. Members for Fareham (Suella Braverman) and for Bury South (Mr Lewis); the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers); my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Eleanor Smith); the hon. Members for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) and for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow); my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill); the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield); my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion); the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas); and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams), whose speech was absolutely excellent and is the only one I am going to highlight—[Interruption.] Yes, there is a little bit of favouritism. I also thank the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), and my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), for York Central (Rachael Maskell) and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali). There were a lot of excellent speeches in among all those.

It has been a passionate debate—with good reason—and I am pleased to see so many Members who are as passionate about public health as I am. Let us be clear: it is not talking down the fabulous work that our NHS does day in, day out, or the amazing doctors, nurses, radiographers, clinicians, porters, catering staff, cleaners—indeed all NHS workers—to say that the health of our nation is at risk because of this Government’s callous and careless cuts to public health services. The public health grant is expected to see a £700 million real-terms reduction from its 2014-15 level. That includes £85 million in the current financial year, at a time when the Government are peddling the phrase “prevention is better than cure”. That phrase means nothing without adequate funding for our public health services.

I therefore ask the Minister, since prevention is a priority for this Government, whether she will commit today to reversing years of public health budget cuts. Public health spending is just a tiny proportion of the overall spend on health in England. It was just 2.8% in 2018-19, and that figure is falling year on year. Because of that, the Association of Directors of Public Health says that reductions in services are now “inevitable”— and that is a direct quote. This is at a time when services are needed more than ever, as we have heard.

Gonorrhoea and syphilis rates are on the rise, rates of smoking among pregnant women have risen the first time on record, Victorian diseases—scarlet fever, whooping cough, malnutrition and gout—have seen a 52% upturn since 2010, and there has been an increase of more than 3,000 hospital admissions per year: that is all on this Government’s watch. This Government are making our country ill. Local authorities were given the responsibility for public health in 2013, rightly so in my opinion, but without sustainable funding they have buckled under the pressure of austerity. Their ability to maintain and improve the health outcomes of local residents has been jeopardised. Last year, for the first time in over a century, increases in life expectancy stalled, and in some parts of the UK they have even decreased, as we have heard.

The life expectancy gap between women in the most deprived and least deprived areas is 7.4 years. The healthy life expectancy gap between men in the most deprived and least deprived areas is almost two decades. Yes, you heard me right, Mr Speaker—I said two decades. That is 20 years of difference in healthy life. There is a persistent north-south divide in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, with people residing in southern regions of England on average living longer and with fewer years in poor health than those living further north. As someone from the north, as Members can probably tell, that particularly concerns me.

The Northern Health Science Alliance, or NHSA, set out why that is so important in its “Health for Wealth” report, published last year. I recommend that every Member reads it. Productivity is worse in the north, because health is worse in the north. Improving health in the north of England would therefore lead to substantial economic gains. What will the Minister do to address these regional health inequalities? Obviously, I agree with the notion that prevention is better than cure, but I do not share the Government’s belief that prevention is possible without sustainable funding. If we are to reduce the ever-growing pressure on our NHS, we should therefore be investing in our public health services to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life—[Interruption.] I am pleased that we have been joined by the Secretary of State, and I shall have to try to repeat some of my best lines for him.

Analysis by the British Medical Association shows a continued trend of decreased funding, despite hospital admissions in which obesity, smoking, and alcohol was a factor increasing over a similar time period.

We have an obesity crisis in this country. The UK has one of the worst childhood obesity rates in Europe, but the Government’s childhood obesity plans have failed to seriously tackle this crisis, and with consultations still ongoing we have yet to see any material action by the Government. The UK spends about £6 billion a year on the medical costs of conditions related to being overweight or obese, and a further £10 billion on diabetes, but less than £638 million on obesity prevention programmes. Will the Minister commit to correcting that funding imbalance today?

Smoking remains the No. 1 cause of death in England, yet Action on Smoking and Health, ASH, found that in England from 2014-15 to 2017-18 local authority spending on tobacco control, including stop smoking services, fell by 30%. Furthermore, an annual survey conducted by ASH, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, found that, in 2018, 30 local authorities had no budget for tobacco control activity outside of stop smoking services. Although smoking costs the NHS an estimated £2.5 billion, NICE estimates that for every £1 invested in stop smoking services, £2.37 will be saved on treating smoking-related disease and lost productivity. Will the Minister therefore justify the Government’s reasoning for not investing in stop smoking services?

Alcohol is the leading risk factor for ill health, early mortality and disability among people aged 15 to 49. Even though hospital admissions associated with alcohol have nearly doubled since 2006-07, and have risen tenfold when obesity is also a factor, the budgets for alcohol and obesity services have been cut by more than 10% over the past three years. Does the Minister agree that if there is a need funding should follow? Will she ensure that public health services are funded sufficiently?

Demands on sexual health services have also increased. At a time when sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise, the Government have cut funding for sexual health services by £55.7 million since 2013-14. I welcome the Government’s commitment to end HIV infections in England by 2030, but that progress risks being undone by those cuts. Sexual health services are essential if we are to end new HIV transmissions in the UK, but clinics report that they have to turn people away because of cuts to services. Does the Minister agree with the assessment by the Terrence Higgins Trust? [Interruption.] If the Minister’s two colleagues will allow her to listen to what I am saying, the trust said that

“sexual health services are at crisis point”.

The Secretary of State may shake his head as much as he likes, but that is not me saying that—it is the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Finally, I would like to state my disappointment and frustration at the fact that there is no future funding settlement for the local authority public health grant after 2019-20. The Minister will know all too well that time is ticking by, so will she set out the Government’s plans for a funding settlement post 2020? We need a settlement that will ensure that people can access the public health services they need so that they can live healthier and longer lives. I hope that after this debate the Minister will see how important that is to our constituencies and local authorities, which are responsible for this area of work. That is why the Opposition are calling on the Government to publish impact assessments on public health spending cuts and stalling life expectancy. I look forward to the Minister’s response. This is only her second or third time at the Dispatch Box—it is the first time we have faced each other across the Dispatch Box—and she is still finding her feet, but she will be keen to make her mark. Now is her chance. I urge her to publish those impact assessments, then do the right thing: properly fund public health now, because people’s lives really do depend on it.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Seema Kennedy) Parliament Live - Hansard
14 May 2019, 6:48 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to respond to this important debate, which has covered a wide range of issues, showing the depth of the passion shared by hon. Members across the House for public health.

I want to address some of the points made by hon. Members. I should like to begin with the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), who opened the debate and began by mentioning towns such as Burnley and Blackpool. I was born in Blackburn, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) referred to. Like him, I am a slightly disappointed Blackburn Rovers fan, and I represent a Lancashire constituency. I share his concerns about health inequalities, which I see in my constituency. That is what motivates me in this job, and it is what motivates my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which is why she set the ageing society grand challenge. The Government share the commitment to prevention and public health that the debate has highlighted, because the costs, both to individual lives and to the NHS, are simply too great to ignore.

I want to address some of the points that hon. Members have raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman) spoke about her local services. I am looking forward to reading the report and wish her well as she becomes a mother.

The hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis) spoke about local mental health provision and the experience of his young constituent. NHS England’s planned spend on mental health in the year ending 2019 was just over £12 billion. For children’s mental health services, it is nearly £7 billion—an increase of 5.6% on the previous year. I would like to reassure him that we are definitely not aiming for a one-size-fits-all service.[Official Report, 16 May 2019, Vol. 660, c. 4MC.]

I can reassure my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) that we are absolutely committed to training more GPs. In September last year, we had the highest ever number of students in training. We are also committed to allied healthcare professionals and working to retain the GPs that we have as well as releasing them to give them more time for frontline care.

In response to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Eleanor Smith), let me say that this Government are absolutely committed to the NHS remaining free at the point of delivery. I would like to put to bed the myth that there is any aim towards privatisation. On the specific constituency case that she raised, I remind her that almost 90% of prescriptions are dispensed free of charge.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) spoke with her usual passion. She paid tribute to Dame Marianne Griffiths, and I join her in paying tribute to everyone at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

I can tell the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) that we do take prevention extremely seriously. I know that he and I have a meeting scheduled to discuss healthcare in his constituency. We have published our vision for prevention, setting out how we will put that at the heart of the health and social care system, and later this year, we will launch a Green Paper on prevention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), who is an assiduous parliamentarian as well as constituency Member of Parliament, talked about screening for bowel cancer—something that has touched her family. The long-term plan will modernise the bowel cancer screening programme to detect more cancers by lowering the starting age from 60 to 50. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) touched on mental health. I would like to reiterate again that that is at the heart of the long-term plan.

I had never noticed my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) being critical, but she is definitely a candid friend to the Government. I thank her for her work as a cancer nurse and for highlighting the improvements in the diagnosis of breast cancer, stroke and other diseases.

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) is a great champion for survivors of sexual abuse. I will take away the specific points that she raised and discuss them with the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who is responsible for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas), who is also a great champion for the healthcare of his constituents—as I know from the number of letters to him that I sign—spoke about podiatry and the importance of prevention in amputations.

The hon. Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams) is obviously, with his background in medicine, extremely passionate about public health. Like him, the Government are committed to early years provision. He mentioned the work that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is doing on this. Yes, there are inequalities in life expectancy, but it is as high as it has ever been in this country.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) on the work that she has done on highlighting the issue of menopause, which has not been raised in this Chamber nearly enough. I reiterate to the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) that reducing health inequalities remains central to our strategy for public health, and we continue to require councils to use their grant with a view to achieving that.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) that we need to resolve the uncertainty about Brexit, and I thank her for highlighting the importance of research.

To the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), all I will say is that the World Health Organisation said that our air quality strategy is an example for the world to follow. To the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), let me say that we are in no way complacent, and I draw her attention to the targeted lung health checks in Manchester, which are producing excellent results.

To the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), let me say that public health funding for 2020 onwards, including the local authority public health grant, will be considered carefully in the next spending review, in the light of all available evidence. To the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), let me say that we are taking serious steps on obesity. I share the passion of the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) for improved health outcomes in the north; I represent a seat in the north-west, and she represents one in the north-east.

The most important thing to remember is that public health is about more than the health service and public health grant. It is about the whole of government. It is about more than a single pot of money. Even within local government, improving health is not all about the grant, because local authorities can use the whole range of their activity—including on transport, planning and the economy—to promote better health. Spending across the board in local government, central Government and the NHS can all be far more influential in improving and protecting health.

Equality issues remain central to our strategy for public health. Our overarching twin ambition is to raise healthy life expectancy while reducing the inequalities in life expectancies across different groups of the population. In its long-term plan, the NHS has already committed to strengthen action on prevention and health inequalities. All local health systems will be expected to set out in 2019 how they will reduce health inequalities. This Government’s commitment to improving public health, working with the NHS, local authorities and others, is rock solid. We will set out further steps in the Green Paper, and I urge all Members to oppose the motion.

Question put.

See more like "Draft Food and Feed Hygiene and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019"

Draft Food and Feed Hygiene and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Debate between Seema Kennedy and Mrs Sharon Hodgson
Monday 13 May 2019

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Read Full debate
General Committees
Department of Health and Social Care
Seema Kennedy Hansard
13 May 2019, 4:44 p.m.

I think it is important that the hon. Lady wants to draw out what people are worried about, which is food safety. There is only one approved food irradiation establishment in the UK, and it does not currently treat food on an entirely commercial basis. Its main business is medical sterilisation. Only a small proportion of food is irradiated and that should be robustly regulated. The overall message I would like the hon. Lady to take away is that the Government are absolutely committed to food safety. There is no suggestion in this instrument or any other that has been laid that there will be any watering down of, or reneging on, the Government’s absolute commitment to the very robust regulation of food. That is something we pioneered and are very proud of.

The proposed amendments for smoke flavourings address minor drafting errors in the previously laid Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Those errors were identified by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. In its response, the FSA provided an undertaking to the JCSI that the deficiency would be addressed.

EU authorisation decisions relating to genetically modified food and feed have come into force since the laying of the Genetically Modified Food and Feed (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which will implement retained EU law on exit day. The instrument introduces amendments to make the decisions fully operable by specifying the UK entity to which authorisation holders must submit annual reports on activities set out in their environmental monitoring plans and to remove references to the European Community in connection with the register of authorised GM food and feed.

The instrument makes equivalent changes to the relevant Northern Ireland legislation to ensure that the body of Northern Ireland food law can function properly and is enforceable once the UK leaves the EU. It also inserts a definition of “Northern Ireland devolved authority” or, where appropriate, identifies the Department that is the correct appropriate authority, replacing references to EU institutions and bodies in various EU regulations. The amendments also include naming of the relevant legislature for Northern Ireland where the regulation-making procedure is provided in various EU regulations. The instrument transfers powers to UK entities to support a UK regulatory regime. It also transfers responsibility for risk assessment from the European Food Safety Authority to the food safety authorities, the FSA and Food Standards Scotland. [Interruption.] Yes, “All You Need Is Love”. They will continue to deliver independent, open and transparent, science and evidence-based advice.

The instrument additionally changes references regarding the import of food and feed into the EU as references to the import of food and feed into the United Kingdom. It does not introduce any changes for food businesses in how they are regulated and run. The formal public consultation carried out by the FSA covering changes to UK health and identification marking received overwhelming support for the proposal. The instrument will provide continuity for businesses and protection of consumers’ interests and ensure that enforcement of the regulations can continue in the same way. The changes will ensure the retention of a robust system of controls that will underpin UK businesses’ ability to trade both domestically and internationally.

It is important to note that the devolved Administrations have provided their consent for the instrument. Furthermore, we have engaged positively with the devolved Administrations throughout its development. The ongoing engagement has been warmly welcomed.

The instrument will ensure that regulatory controls for food continue to function effectively after exit day and that public health is protected. It is therefore key to ensuring that the high standards of food safety and consumer protection that we enjoy in this country are maintained when the UK leaves the European Union. It will protect public health from risks that may arise in connection with the consumption of food. I ask hon. Members to support the amendments proposed in this instrument to ensure the continuation of effective food and feed safety and public health controls. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab) - Hansard
13 May 2019, 4:48 p.m.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Robertson. I want to start by officially welcoming the Minister to her new role. It is the first opportunity I have had to do that and the first time we have faced each other in a debate. I am sure it will not be the last. I look forward to shadowing her and no doubt opposing her when I need to, but I hope that we can work together on all things public health, as I did with her predecessor, to ensure the better health of everyone in the country, regardless of where they live, how much they earn or who they are.

Earlier this year, as we approached the 29 March Brexit deadline, some of us would be in in this room, or one very like it, regularly as SIs were rushed through in haste. As has been said, the Minister’s predecessor and I debated 15 SIs relating to food safety in a matter of weeks. For many reasons I am pleased that we were able to secure a Brexit extension, but in this case I am particularly happy because if we had left on 29 March, some of the minor deficiencies that we are discussing today could have turned major very quickly.

The regulations have not previously been addressed in Brexit preparations, so it is good that we have time to discuss them now. They also deal with recent changes to EU law, which could not have been addressed in earlier instruments. As the Minister said, public safety is paramount. That is why any future changes to regulatory controls after the UK leaves the EU should provide the same, or hopefully an improved, level of consumer protection.

Any changes as a result of the regulations must be effectively communicated to the affected agencies in a timely manner. Will the Minister please tell the Committee whether she has had any further communication with those agencies since March? I am sure that they are awaiting further information from the Government about Brexit, and their business is no doubt hanging in the balance in the meantime. As this is a matter of public safety, changes must be communicated clearly and in a timely manner to ensure that the industry can be in line with current legislation. Will the Minister give assurances that that will not affect the safety or quality of foods available in the UK, now and in the future?

As we have heard, the SI relates to trichinella, which is a pork nematode worm parasite. I am sure that none of us had ever heard about it before, and hope never to need do so again, or to deal with its effect. The SI also relates to the transitional provisions for official laboratories. The retained EU law regarding specific official controls that apply to trichinella in meat and trichinella testing requirements may not be fully enforceable until the specific inoperabilities are addressed by the SI. Is the Minister confident that the legislation sufficiently addresses the inoperabilities regarding the testing requirements for trichinella, and when does she think that they will be fully enforceable, on passing the SI?

The instrument states that facilities approved by EU member states would in future no longer be automatically approved for food imported from the UK. Does the Minister know what impact that will have on supply and businesses? How long will the process be to approve facilities for food imported from the UK, and will a list of approved facilities be available? The instrument also includes provisions to set minimum charging rates for hygiene controls for fishery products by amending the Fishery Products (Official Controls Charges) (England) Regulations 2007. Will the Minister outline what the charges will be and what impact any new set rates could have?

The explanatory memorandum for the SI states that functions currently undertaken by the European Commission in adopting some implementing regulations rendering applicable the controls on imported food will in future be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Can the Minister provide information on how decisions on those controls will be decided and managed? What will the arrangements be for collecting data monitoring the effectiveness of the regulations and regularly reporting the findings? What bodies will be able to scrutinise performance and delivery, and what assessment has been made of their capacity to take on that work, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey mentioned?

Finally, what conversations has the Minister had with devolved nations regarding the SI? We do not know for sure exactly when we will leave the EU, but it is best to be prepared, especially when dealing with parasites such as this little worm. That is why the Opposition do not oppose the regulations, but rather express some concerns that I hope the Minister can address.