Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year Message

This article first appeared in the Leigh Journal.

As we come to the end of 2014, we can reflect on a year of good progress for Leigh.

It began with the opening of the impressive new Hanover Centre at Leigh Infirmary.

That was followed by the long-awaited start of work on the redevelopment at the top of Plank Lane.

And, of course, we finally waved goodbye to ‘Kamikaze Island’.

But, when all's said and done, one thing will will define 2014: it will go down as the year that, for one night only, Elton was a Leyther!

When I was first elected in 2001, I had high ambitions for Leigh. But, in truth, even I might have struggled to foresee how Leigh could ever play host to a global superstar before a 17500 strong crowd.

But we did - and, more than that, Leigh pulled it off in style.

Shortly after the big night, someone told me how they had seen Elton perform in Las Vegas just a few weeks earlier. They laughed when the remaining dates of Elton’s tour flashed up on the big screen: LA ... New York ... Leigh ...!

That unforgettable June night was the moment when the Leigh Sports Village truly came into its own and placed Leigh firmly on the map.

But the truth is Elton was not the only performer to light up the LSV. Leigh Centurions blazed a trail through the 2014 season and graced the LSV stage with perhaps their most exciting team for 30 years.

A couple of years ago, I ran a campaign for the return of promotion and relegation and I am pleased that, once again, the door to Super League is open to us.

So, your MP asks you to make one simple New Year's Resolution - let’s all of us get down to the LSV in 2015 and cheer our exciting young team back to Super League.

One dark spot on the year was the surprise decision by Wigan & Leigh College to pull the plug on A Level provision. It left many young people in the lurch.

We are waiting for the College to publish the findings of a review. But, whatever it concludes, I am clear about this: Leigh students should not have to get up at the crack of dawn and travel miles to do A levels. We want good A Level provision in the heart of our town and that is what I will campaign for in 2015.

Another challenging issue this year was HS2.

Before the close of the consultation, I organised a series of public meetings in Lowton and Golborne. What came over clearly was the high level of opposition to the proposed depot off Slag Lane. People felt it would destroy our green space and shatter our peace.

I listened and concluded they were absolutely right. Ever since, I have thrown whatever political weight I could muster into the campaign against the depot. I am pleased to say it seems we have won the day: the latest statement from HS2 says they are now looking at alternative sites. I will keep up the pressure in 2015 until it is finally confirmed.

There is another reason why transport will be the big issue of next year - it will finally see the opening of the Leigh Guided Busway.

Now I know it's the under-statement of the year to say people remain to be convinced about the Busway. I know that the disruption has been horrendous - particularly in Tyldesley - and we will continue to work hard to minimise it.

But here's a confident, if somewhat dangerous prediction, for 2015 - I think the Busway will turn out to be better than people think.

I understand people's scepticism as the busway was never my preferred option. That would have been a rail station or, failing that, Metrolink. But the technical and financial obstacles to both are huge and the truth is this: Leigh can’t wait forever for better public transport. We need it now.

Now that it’s coming, I think we need to seize the opportunity it presents for Leigh.

One of the big plus points of the busway is that it will be much cheaper than rail. A weekly return pass to Manchester will be around £14 or £15. That compares well with the £28 cost of a rail pass from Atherton. That will open up opportunities for young people in Leigh who struggle to run a car. All concessionary passes will be valid and pensioners will be able to travel for free with their bus pass.

Given that, I have no doubt that the Busway will bring shoppers back into Leigh.

People think of it only taking people away from Leigh. But I think it will work the other way round: Leigh and Tyldesley town centres will end up being the big winners. That's because, for anyone living on the guided section of the route, they can be in Leigh or Tyldesley in a matter of minutes with no traffic or hassle.

So, to coincide with the opening of the Busway, I want to launch a big ‘Come Back to Leigh’ marketing campaign. As part of the scheme, new investment is going in to the Leigh Bus Station and into the town centre. This is big chance to turn around the fortunes of the town centre and I am determined to make the most of it.

I think it's time to see the potential of the Busway rather than the problems. Already, there are signs that it will continue the regeneration of the town. Plans to turn Mather Lane Mill into flats - on the back of the Busway - are an exciting example of the wider benefits it will bring.

So there are grounds to be optimistic for our town as we head in to 2015. I remain as passionate as ever about my mission to restore its fortunes and am always grateful for the brilliant support you continue to give me.

Here's to a successful and prosperous 2015.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Letter to Jeremy Hunt over ambulance waiting times

Dear Jeremy


It is reported today that, last week, you took a decision that could have far-reaching implications for ambulance and A&E services this winter.

A leaked document obtained by the Mail on Sunday suggests that, on Monday 15 December, you approved a proposal to relax the Red 2 response time from 8 to 11 minutes for some calls and to 19 minute minutes for others.

I gather that you wanted the change to have immediate effect but that it has been delayed until the first week of January.

If this is correct, it represents a major change of policy for the ambulance service and a departure from long-established working practices. While there may well be a case for making such a change, it  could reasonably have been expected to be subject to careful consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny. Instead, it appears to have been rushed through, without due process, in response to the deteriorating situation in the NHS.

The leaked document makes specific reference to the unusual nature of this decision in terms of both timescale and process:

·         it notes the proposals have not had the "full breadth of exposure normally expected";
·         it makes clear that the discussion about the changes was limited to a narrow group of people and that the ambulance service as a whole was not consulted but instead presented with a fait accompli;
·         and it records the firm view of NHS England that any such changes should not be implemented until the next Parliament.

I believe these revelations raise major questions over: (a) the safety and continuity of services this winter; and (b) your own conduct and judgement.

You will recall that I wrote to you on Friday 12 December asking you to make a statement to Parliament before the break setting out your plans to deal with winter pressures. You failed to reply and so, on Thursday, you were required to come to the Commons to answer my Urgent Question. I remind you that it specifically asked you to outline to Parliament your plans for ambulance services this winter.

Given that this was three days after you had made your decision, I find it highly unsatisfactory that you made no mention of it in response to my question or to those of other MPs. This is all the more extraordinary when we discover from the document that ambulances services were given a deadline of noon on the same day to sign a letter to NHS England supporting the change. You have treated Parliament with contempt.

This decision has implications for the NHS in all parts of England. Members of Parliament should have been informed about it and given the opportunity to challenge it, particularly given the unusual nature of the way it has been made. Instead, you appear to have deliberately kept Parliament in the dark and given an incomplete answer to my question.

Given the seriousness of the situation now facing the NHS, and the need for people to have confidence in your public statements, it is imperative that you now correct this error of judgement and provide answers to these 10 questions:

1.   Is it correct that you approved this change on Monday 15th December?

2.   If it is, why did you make no mention of it when you answered my Urgent Question on Thursday 18th December and what justification do you have for withholding such important information from Parliament?

3.   Is NHS England in support of making this change now or does it still consider that a longer timetable is needed?

4.   What categories of patients will now be expected to wait longer for an ambulance as a result of this change and what evidence do you have that these longer waiting times are safe?

5.   Will you publish all evidence and advice, both clinical and operational, which you considered as part of your decision-making process?

6.   How many people were involved in the discussion of these changes, who were they and for how long was this matter under consideration?

7.   Did you receive any warnings on the risks of making these changes at short notice in the middle of a difficult winter and were any of the people you consulted opposed to your plans?

8.   Why were the 10 ambulance trust Chief Executives not fully consulted? 

9.   What plans do you have to communicate these changes to the public and the rest of the NHS?

10.                Are you confident that it is a safe and sensible course of action to continue to implement these changes in the first week of 2015 given that the vast majority of people working in the NHS have only found out about them today?

I expect nothing less than a full response today to each of these questions. If you do not have an acceptable reason for withholding information about your decision from Parliament, I suggest you should prepare to make a full apology to the House at the first opportunity after it returns from recess.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Labour will tackle scandal of cancer patients denied life-saving treatment

Today, I have announced a new cancer strategy to be published within six months of a Labour Government and a plan to tackle ageism in cancer treatment.

Labour will create a new annual Cancer Treatments Fund to improve access not just to the latest drugs but also to the latest forms of radiotherapy and surgery that are too often not available for thousands of people with cancer.

In a speech to the Britain Against Cancer conference, I commited the next Labour Government to creating a fund that starts in April 2016, when the Cancer Drugs Fund expires.

The current fund, which only pays for drugs, will come to an end in March 2016. The new annual fund would build on existing provision, but expand the scope of extra investment to improve access not just to drugs but also to radiotherapy and surgery - the two forms of treatment that are responsible for nine in 10 cases where cancer is cured.

In the move to the new fund, Labour would also guarantee that any patient in receipt of a drug from the Cancer Drugs Fund would continue to be offered that drug.

The new £330 million Fund will be created by adding £50m from the pharmaceutical industry rebate to the £280m-a-year Cancer Drugs Fund budget. Cancer experts will be consulted on the allocation of the resource and the best mechanisms for delivering it.

Figures from Cancer Research UK show that while half of radiotherapy patients should receive Intensity-modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), it is currently only received by a third. The number of patients receiving Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR), which treats lung and other cancers over a shorter length of time, fell by 10 per cent last year. Meanwhile, 124 patients were sent abroad to receive Proton Beam therapy last year as the NHS will not be able to deliver it until 2018.

A Labour Government will also publish a new cancer strategy within six months of the election. Separately, the Government will commission Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Surgeons and other key stakeholders to lead a programme of work to make recommendations on addressing the under-treatment of older cancer patients.

The new Fund forms part of Labour’s 10-year plan to be the best in Europe on cancer survival and save up to 10,000 lives a year. It builds on Ed Miliband’s commitment earlier this year to guarantee patients a test and result within a week where cancer is suspected.

A Labour Government will also support Teenage Cancer Trust’s programme of awareness sessions on cancer, currently available in around 500 schools, and roll it out to the rest of the country.

My goal is to make the NHS the best health service in the world for the treatment of cancer. We will only achieve that if we give patients access to the most effective forms of treatment, including advanced radiotherapy.

The problem with cancer policy under the current Government is that it prioritises one form of cancer treatment over others and places one group of patients ahead of another. This is indefensible when we know surgery and radiotherapy are responsible for nine in ten cases where cancer is cured. It is not right that 40,000 people every year who could benefit from radiotherapy are missing out.

This is why Labour will build on the benefits of the Cancer Drugs Fund but extend the principles of improving access and supporting innovation to all forms of cancer treatment and all cancer patients.”

Too many young people are leaving education without knowing some of the basics about cancer and how to look out for the warning signs. Every young person should, as part of their education, have the opportunity to learn more and know where to go if they are worried. Teenage Cancer Trust is doing brilliant work in this area and with a bit more support from Government we can make their sessions available to every school in the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is evidence that too many older people are missing out on effective treatments. We need to eradicate any suggestion of ageism and the under-treatment that can result. That’s why the next Labour Government will launch an immediate programme of work led by the Royal College of Surgeons and Cancer Research UK to understand what’s happening in practice and make recommendations on tackling under-treatment.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Public Meeting Update - 8th November

Following the public meeting on 8th November TfGM have prepared response to questions raised with me by constituents.

You can view the replies at the two links below:

Link 1

Link 2

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Leigh Town Centre Business Forum Meeting

I would like to invite Leigh Town Centre Businesses to a meeting with me taking place on Friday 28th November, 2-3pm in Conference Room 2, Leigh Town Hall.

The aim of the meeting to discuss the redevelopment of the Town Centre and to gain business views.

If your business would like to attend please can you confirm your attendance via email.

If you would like to share your views but are unable to attend, please feel free to email me on the above email.

Please feel free to pass on this invitation to other town centre business owners you are in contact with.

Friday, 7 November 2014

2014 Veterans Luncheon

Pic with the Mayor of Wigan & the Fred
Longworth School Brass Band.
Today I hosted my 9th Annual Veterans Luncheon at Leigh Miners Welfare Institute.

Attended by over 150 local veterans I paid tribute to the contribution and sacrifice of veterans across the Leigh area.

Entertainment was provided by the award winning Fred Longworth School Brass Band with food supplied by Clapham's Bakery.

It is a fitting tribute to the men and women here today that we commemorate the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces at home and abroad and especially as we remember the outbreak of WWI 100 years ago. It is important that they are thanked for their contribution to their country.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Have your say!

Residents will be able to have their say on traffic management for the next stage of guided busway works on Astley Street at a public meeting.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is working with Wigan Council and myself to host the meeting, which will take place from 12pm in the main hall of Fred Longworth High School on Saturday 8 November.

I will chair the meeting which is a fully accessible meeting venue open to all, with no need to pre-register.

Officers and councillors from Wigan Council will attend, alongside representatives from TfGM, Balfour Beatty, and Urban Vision, who are managing busway works along the A580 on behalf of Salford City Council.

Officers will present the preferred option for traffic management on Astley Street and an open question and answer session will give people the chance to discuss the busway with the people responsible for delivering the scheme.

The work on Astley Street is due to start in December once Hough Lane has fully re-opened.
When complete, the busway will improve the frequency and reliability of bus journeys between Leigh, Tyldesley, Atherton and Manchester, with journey times of less than 50 minutes to and from the city centre.

More information about the busway – and the wider bus priority package – can be found here or by calling 0300 123 1177 (calls charged at local rate, lines open Monday – Friday, 9-5pm) or by email.        

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

My letter to David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister,

At Prime Minister’s Questions today Ed Miliband raised the serious issue of the English NHS and its increasingly precarious position after four years of this Conservative Government. Asked five questions about the English NHS, you failed to answer.

You were asked the following questions:
  • Why 16 leading health organisations representing doctors, nurses and patients are warning that health and social care services in England are “at breaking point”. You had no answer to their warnings about what's happening to the NHS on your watch. 
  • You were asked to confirm that in England we have the highest waiting lists for six years, the highest number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E for 10 years, the cancer treatment target missed for the first time ever and millions of people can’t get to see their GP. You had nothing to say on these facts which concern people across England.
  • You were asked about your top-down reorganisation of the NHS, which has wasted £3 billion. You didn't say whether you agree with a Cabinet colleague that it was a huge mistake.
  • You were asked about the warnings of the Conservative chair of the Health Select Committee about your funding plans and charging in the NHS. You had no answer to her views.
  • You were asked to support the NHS by funding one-week cancer testing with a levy on the tobacco companies and you wouldn't explain why you refuse to do so. 
These are serious issues which are of great concern to the public. On all of them you provided no answers. Instead you attempted to run away from your record on the NHS by launching another attack on the NHS in Wales.

The country and the NHS deserve better. Rather than indulging in smears and diversionary tactics you would be better advised to spend your time addressing the fact that the NHS is at breaking point under your Government.

As you yourself said in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, “the millions of voices of England must also be heard.” If these words are to mean anything at all then you must immediately address the issues you were asked about today.

Until you focus on saving rather than smearing the NHS, the public will be understandably confronted with the sad truth that all this Government offers is five more years of crisis in the health service.

Yours sincerely,

Andy Burnham MP
Shadow Health Secretary

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Transport Bosses take steps to cut congestion

Transport bosses say they’re doing all they can to cut congestion and minimise disruption in the east of Wigan Borough caused by construction work on the Leigh guided busway.

It follows a meeting called by myself and local councillors to address concerns raised by the public about traffic problems in Leigh, Astley and Tyldesley.

My constituents are fair-minded and often prepared to put up with a lot. But in recent weeks they have been saying “enough is enough”. Traffic congestion has gone way beyond acceptable levels and, together with local councillors, I called this meeting to give voice to the frustration that our constituents are feeling.

It was a positive meeting and I can assure people that those in charge of the busway construction are fully aware of how strongly people feel. It is clear mistakes have been made and we received assurances they will not be repeated. We also asked for a number of steps to be taken to improve the current situation as it clearly cannot continue. I have to say drivers are unlikely to see an improvement overnight but I am confident that we will get to a point where the level of disruption is more acceptable to the public. We have called a follow-up meeting next week and we will give people a further update after that.

Representatives from Wigan Council, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and busway contractor Balfour Beatty met with Mr Burnham and local ward councillors on Monday (October 13). A series of steps were agreed to combat congestion. They include:

No other non-busway road works to take place in the area except for emergency utility works needed to keep on gas, water and power supplies to homes.
A review of the plans to construct the busway and park and ride junctions on Astley Street in Tyldesley.
A review of temporary traffic management on the A580 to see if disruption can be reduced, including investigating whether some works can be rescheduled and carried out at weekends to minimise the impact on commuters.
Develop a single point of information for busway-related road works including improved coordination with the works in Salford.

It’s hoped these measures will relieve some of the difficulties drivers have been experiencing in the area in recent weeks.

Transport bosses insisted everything was being done to keep disruption to a minimum and lessen the impact on residents. But they agreed to look again at some of the plans for works being carried out in the coming weeks. TfGM, Wigan Council and Balfour Beatty have agreed to review again the options for completing the works on Astley Street and will present them at a second meeting organised for next Monday (October 20).

They also confirmed work on Hough Lane in Tyldesley, which is currently closed, was on track and should be completed on time allowing the road to reopen by the end of November.

Terry Dunn, director of environment at Wigan Council, said: “I want the public to know we are listening to their concerns. I know there have been unacceptable traffic delays in Leigh, Tyldesley and Astley recently and I’d like to apologise for that.

“This is a huge construction project taking place in an area with an aging infrastructure. The reason we’re building the busway is because we want to improve and invest in that infrastructure. This construction phase was always going to be extremely challenging and every effort has been made to ensure the impact is minimised.

“However, it’s clear the current situation cannot continue and we are going to explore every option open to us to see if we can reduce disruption further and cut congestion in the areas affected.”

Peter Boulton, head of programme management services at TfGM, said: “We fully appreciate the impact busway construction is having locally and we are committed to working with all our partners in Wigan and Salford to explore any options that will reduce that. We’ve had a positive meeting today and will continue to keep listening to local people and their representatives and, wherever possible, acting on their feedback.”

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Veterans Luncheon 2014

Pic. Veteran Luncheon 2013
I am pleased to announce that I will be hosting the 9th Annual Veterans Luncheon on Friday, 7th November 2014 at Leigh Miners Welfare Institute, Off Twist Lane, Leigh commencing at 12noon.

Veterans of HM Armed Forces who reside in the Leigh parliamentary constituency can confirm attendance by email or by calling my constituency office 01942 682353.

For catering purposes the last date for receipt of applications is 31st October.

The event will also mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and entertainment will be provided by the award winning Fred Longworth High School Brass band.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Labour Party Conference Speech


I’ve got a question for you.

Hands up how many of you would walk 300 miles to save the NHS?

Hands up how many of you actually have?

Leading from the front, speaking for millions – Conference, please show your appreciation for the Darlo mums and the People’s March for the NHS.

We have arrived at a big moment.

The Party that created the NHS in the last century today sets out a plan to secure it in this.

A rescue plan for a shattered service.

But more than that.

A vision for a 21st century NHS there when you need it, personal to you and your family, with time to care.

A national health and care service based on people before profits.

Today we place that proud Labour plan at the centre of our Election campaign.

And, thanks to Ed’s great speech, we have the money to back it up.

A plan worth voting for, proof that all parties are not the same, giving you a real choice over the future of your NHS.

Because it certainly didn’t happen last time.

Remember that solemn promise of “no top-down reorganisation”?

It was a bare-faced lie.

Days into office, the Tories set about dismantling your NHS.

And the plan that dared not speak its name before the last Election is now plain for all to see:

run it down

break it up

sell it off.

So today we serve notice on Cameron and Clegg: Thursday 7th May 2015 - your day of reckoning on the NHS.

A reckoning for trashing the public’s most prized asset without their permission.

And a reckoning for a ruinous reorganisation that has dragged it down and left it on the brink.

A winter crisis in A&E now a spring, summer and autumn crisis too.

Over three million people on NHS waiting lists.

Families waiting longer for cancer treatment to start – and the national cancer target missed for the very first time.

The NHS can’t take five more years of Cameron.

I could go on about the damage he’s done.

But let’s be honest – would that help people worried about where the NHS is heading and wanting real answers?

I know there will be families and carers out there watching us today wondering whether anyone really understands what their life is like.

Soldiering on from one day to the next, feeling invisible and taken for granted, ringing the surgery early in the morning but unable to get through, telling the same story to everyone who comes through the door.

You feel no-one listens – and no wonder.

So that’s why I’m going to do something different today.

I want to speak directly to you.

And to the parents of children with disabilities, for whom life feels like one long battle and who fret endlessly about what would happen to your son and daughter if you weren’t around to fight.

To the millions of you who face the daily worry and stress of arranging mum or dad’s care whilst trying to hold down a job.

And, most of all, to those of you who might be watching this alone at home fearing what the future might hold.

My message is simple:

Labour is with you.

Your worries are ours.

We know things can be better than they are.

We want an NHS that takes your worries away.

And we can achieve it if we do something bold.

The time has come for this Party to complete Nye Bevan’s vision and bring social care in to the NHS.

That allows us to rebuild our NHS around you and your family.

No longer ringing the Council for this, the NHS for that.

But one service, one team, one person to call.

An NHS for the whole person, an NHS for carers, an NHS personal to you.

At last, a National Health Service keeping you well, not a National Sickness Service picking up the pieces.

And an end, once and for all, to the scandal that is care of older and vulnerable people in England in 2014.
I ask you this:

How much longer will we say that people who are so frail that they need help with getting up, washing and eating, and who suffer from loneliness and isolation, are only worth a slap-dash 15-minute visit?

How much longer will society send out the message to young people looking after someone else’s mum, dad, brother or sister that it is the lowest form of work, lower than the minimum wage because it doesn’t pay the travel time between the 15-minute visits?

How much longer will we see these shameful scenes from care homes on our TV screens of people are being shouted at or abused and not say enough is enough?

And for how much longer, in this the century of the ageing society, will we allow a care system in England to be run as a race to the bottom, making profits off the backs of our most vulnerable?

If this Party is about anything, then surely it is about ending that.

I want you to understand why I feel like this.

About ten years ago, I saw my own mum ground down and worn out by the battle to get decent care for my gran.

She was in a nursing home where corners were often cut and where it was hard to get GPs to visit.

The decent people who worked there were let down by the anonymous owners who filled it with untrained, temporary staff.

My gran’s things often went missing and we had got used to that.

But I will never forget the day when we walked in to see her and her knuckle was red raw where her engagement ring had been ripped off.

Right there, right then - I made it my mission to end this scandal.

And the greatest sadness of all was that this so-called care cost my grandmother everything she and my granddad had worked for.

I know millions of families have been through the same or are going through it now.

People look to Labour to change these things and that is what we will do.

You know the Tories will never do it.

They put profits before people – always – it’s in their DNA.

Their answer is to let the market that has ripped through social care carry on ripping through the NHS.

Conference, we will do the precise opposite.

I am clearer about this than anything in my life – the market is not the answer to 21st century health and care.
People out there know a minimum-wage, zero-hours approach will never secure the care they want for their mum and dad.

So our 10 year plan for the NHS is founded on people before profits.

We will free the NHS from Cameron’s market and, yes, repeal his toxic Health and Social Care Act.

We will ask hospitals to collaborate once again and reinstate the NHS as our preferred provider.

The public NHS, protected with Labour.

Not for sale.  Not now, not ever.
Cemented at the core of every community so that it can then begin the job of bringing social care in and lifting it up.

Building a culture of respect for all people who care and ending the indignity of flying 15-minute visits.

Caring no longer a dead-end job but part of one workforce working to NHS standards.

But there is a reason why we give the public NHS such stability.

It is so that we can ask it to embrace radical change in the way it provides services to you and your family.
We will ask all hospital trusts to evolve into NHS integrated care organisations, working from home to hospital coordinating all care – physical, mental and social.


Because it makes no sense to cut simple support in people’s homes only to spend thousands keeping them in hospital.

We can’t afford it. It will break the NHS.

But, more, it’s not right for you.

The ever-increasing hospitalisation of older people is no answer to the ageing society.

Bringing social care in doesn’t add to the financial burden.

It is the key to unlocking the money.

But it will mean change and you need to know what that means for you.

Just as Nye Bevan wrote to every household to introduce his new NHS, so I will write again in 2015 to explain what people can expect from our national health and care service.

And this is what I will say.

For any family caring for someone with long-term needs, one team around you.

No longer should frail or vulnerable people be shunted around the system, from ambulance to A&E to noisy ward.

Instead, this team will come to you. Its goal will be to keep you in your own home, safe and well.

You and your carers will have one person to call to get help so no longer telling the same story over and over again.

You will have a care plan personal to you and your family.

If you and your carers get what you really need from the start, then it’s more likely to work.

Building the NHS around you will need a new generation of NHS staff, as Ed said yesterday.

So we will recruit new teams of home care workers, physios, OTs, nurses, midwives with GPs at the centre.

And will we have mental health nurses and therapists at the heart of this team, no longer the poor relation on the fringes of the system but making parity a reality.

And to make sure this investment is not creamed off by others, we will look at how we can ensure private health providers contribute their fair share towards the cost of training.

But, with the best will in the world, the NHS won’t be able to do it all.

That is why I can announce today a big change in the way the NHS supports carers so they can keep going.
No longer invisible but at the very centre of this new service.

So today we announce new support for carers:

The right to a break or respite care;

The right to an annual health check;

Help with hospital car parking for carers;

And we will go further.

We will give all families the right to care in their home, if they want it.

A national health and care service truly there from cradle to grave – from a new right to have a home-birth and a right to be in your own home at the end of your life, surrounded by the people you love, with your care free and no worry about its cost.

These are the things that matter and this is about an NHS there for you at the most important moments in life.

This is what people want and this is what becomes possible with our plan.
True whole person care – simply not possible in Cameron’s fragmented, privatised, demoralised service.

Make no mistake - this coming Election is a battle for the soul of the NHS.

The fight of our lives.

Now we must walk 300 miles for the NHS to every doorstep in the land.

With hope.

With pride.

With passion.

With a plan you can believe in.

But, in the end, this is about more than us.

This is about you.

Your children, your grand-children, your great grandchildren.

It’s about whether an NHS will still be there for them in their hour of need as it has been for you.

Don’t regret it when it’s gone. Join the fight for it now.

So I make this appeal to you.

Help the Party that founded the NHS give it a new beginning.

Help us make it the service we all want it to be.

An NHS that puts people before profit.

An NHS that cares for the carers.

An NHS there for your mum and dad.

An NHS with time to care.

An NHS for all of you.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The verdict from cancer experts is clear: David Cameron’s NHS re-organisation has damaged cancer care

Responding to a report from Cancer Research UK on how David Cameron’s NHS re-organisation brought confusion and a loss of leadership that is damaging cancer care makes devastating reading for David Cameron. The verdict from cancer experts is clear: David Cameron’s NHS re-organisation has damaged cancer care just as Labour always warned it would.

After a decade of progress, cancer patients are waiting longer for tests and treatment. This is causing huge anxiety for thousands of families and the most frustrating thing of all is that the Prime Minister was explicitly warned that this would happen but he chose to ignore it. His reorganisation disrupted the successful cancer networks and, in the words of the report, left a "vacuum" on the cancer agenda. This explains why the NHS is now missing the national cancer standard for the first time.

Cancer care has gone downhill under this Government and they have nobody but themselves to blame for that. David Cameron must urgently set out a convincing plan to halt the decline in cancer standards.

The most recent data from NHS England show that in the first six months of 2014, the NHS missed the target for 85% of cancer patients to begin treatment with 62 days of GP referral. It was missed in Q4 2013/14 and Q1 2014/15 - the first time since its introduction in 2009.

Monday, 4 August 2014


Later today, I will be attending services in Atherton and Leigh to commemorate the start of the First World War.

It has been moving to read stories from families across the country and, in my role as an Ambassador for the commemorations, I wanted to share mine.

Below is a letter from my great-grandfather Edmund Burke (Ned), a Private in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, sent in the summer of 1916 to his brother Walter back at home in Liverpool.

Ned was married to my great-grandmother Ellen Burke, who lived off Commercial Road, with their three daughters, Mary, Ellen and Katherine (my late grandmother). Her last memory of her father was from his final time on leave. He went to Goodison Park in the afternoon and she, with her sisters, did Irish dancing into the evening.

His letter is written in pencil and incomplete in places. It is telling for what it doesn’t say, with plenty of reassurance for his brother that things are fine. But Ned doesn’t hold back on one of the main controversies of the day – Ireland’s involvement in the War – and perhaps reveals a flash of the political streak that his great-grandson was to inherit.

The most poignant part of the letter comes towards the end, when Ned anticipates the forthcoming Battle of Guillemont. He was captured in that battle and held as a prisoner of war for the remainder of the war. He died in a concentration camp on October 28, 1918 – two weeks before the end of the war. Knowing what happened, it makes the letter hard to read and intensely moving.

I have visited Ned’s grave in the immaculate Cologne Southern Cemetery and, on behalf of my family, wish to thank the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the outstanding work they do honouring the memory of the hundreds and thousands like this humble and ordinary man from Liverpool who never returned home to his family.

Monday 4th August 2014


Friday July 27th

My loving Brother

Just a few lines to let you know that I am fine, hoping that you & your dear wife & children are the same. I wrote to you Walter during the week, I sent you a card, and you should have it by now.

Well Walter I saw Jack Mac yesterday and he looks fine to me, had a good laugh together all afternoon. I also saw Bartley Duffy & we were delighted to see each other, he is my old training pal. They look fine & in the 9th Kings, so you see Walter we are all in the pink. I could not see Joe Leatherbarrow, think he is in hospital with his arm. Johnny Westoff the Bookie looks fine & I am looking for Charlie Henry out of the 10th Scottish.

Well Walter I am in touch with Irish Division, Dublin & Connaughts & I had a good talk over Old Ireland. Walter, there’s thousands of Irish boys here & I may tell you it is God help the Boche if they come across them & then they say Ireland is not doing her share in this War. Also the Jocks are fine fellows here. I saw English nurses here last night with their steel helmets.

I hope you are exempted Walter. You will be sorry to hear about poor Tom Kiggins. Joe [ ] is fine and always asks about you.

I hope you are [unclear] Walter, the Boche will get the greatest thumping he ever got in this War.

I hope Liza is well and give her my best love also your fond children. Remember to the old boys, especially George McCarthy.

Mick Murphy is fine & glad to see that Joe is discharged. Mick is a toff Walter & smart soldier, full Corporal.

Well Walter by the time you get this letter big things will have happened here so I ask you to pray for me that God and his holy mother will protect me from all danger and that I may soon see you Walter is my sincere wish. Don’t worry Walter, my love to Liza & kids. God bless you & them.

I remain your loving brother,

Ned XX

PS Remember me to Bridget, she should have my letter. Sorry about Jack.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

HS2 Chief pressed to 'listen to Lowton' and drop depot plans

Last week I held face-to-face talks with the head of HS2 David Higgins and urged him to drop plans for a major depot to the north of Lowton and Golborne.

The Government's current proposals site what is a major industrial installation in an area of open countryside recognised for its scientific and environmental significance. When I consulted local residents on HS2 earlier this year, there was near-universal local opposition to the plan - even from supporters of HS2.

I asked David Higgins for a face-to-face meeting as I wanted to convey directly the strength of feeling of my constituents. I am grateful to him for giving me a hearing and listening to my concerns.

This is not about nimby-ism. Leigh and Lowton people are fair-minded and will always accept their share. But this is taking far too much from us. It will shatter our peace and destroy our precious green space.

Surely the preferred location for a facility of this kind should be a brownfield site, not an area designated by Wigan Council as its "Green Heart", bordering a Site of Special Scientific Interest and close to the historic Lightshaw Hall and Byrom Hall. It's hard to imagine a less appropriate site.

If it is ever built, this depot will be an industrial monstrosity looming large over Pennington Flash and the houses of nearby residents. Pennington Flash has become a significant visitor attraction and this would damage its appeal.

I have urged HS2 to listen to Lowton, go back to the drawing board and relocate this facility to a more appropriate site.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Matthew Gough is up for the challenge to raise funds for little known condition

Today I call on the Leigh public to get behind the fundraising efforts of a Lowton lad suffering from a chronic condition.

Matthew Gough suffers from Interstitial Cystitis (IC), a chronic inflammation of the bladder for which there is no cure. Matthew attends monthly at the Hanover Diagnostic Centre for treatment.

The 19 year old is studying Sports Psychology at UCLAN and will be pushing himself to the limit in a gruelling 140 miles run over 7 days to raise money for The Bladder & Bowel Foundation to aid research into IC and other bladder and bowel conditions.

The run will be coast to coast starting in Whitehaven and finishing in Tynemouth. Matthew is currently putting in the miles training and has an online Justgiving donation page.

Matthew Gough said, "I am completing this challenge for all the people who suffer from a bladder or bowel condition not just IC. Living with any chronic illness isn't just a physical challenge but a mental one also. I hope to raise money to support the great work the Bladder and Bowel Foundation do with their helplines and toilet card initiatives amongst other things. I also hope that I can raise more awareness of conditions like IC which are currently relatively unknown to the wider general public. Finally I'd like to thank all my family and friends for their continued support as well as Andy Burnham for his help in supporting my challenge. The training is tough and the challenge even tougher but it's all worth it if I can change just one person’s life for the better."

Just over a year ago Matthew was diagnosed with IC. Unfortunately IC is incurable and Matthew is having to undergo regular treatment whilst putting himself through a punishing training schedule to be able to run 140 miles in 7 days.

Matthew is a truly inspirational young man and I am calling on the great Leigh public to support him and his chosen charity to raise money to fund research into this chronic condition.

Matthew can be contacted on 07963513587 or by email. He is also on Twitter and facebook.

The Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) is the UK's largest advocacy charity providing information and support for anyone who has experienced a bladder control problem or bowel control problem or both. Central to the charity's work is its helpline providing medical advice and support.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Andy Burnham MP on board with Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign

I showed my support for a campaign led by the charity Guide Dogs to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss.

I attended a reception at the Houses of Parliament on 2 July in support of Guide Dogs’ campaign to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) next stop announcements, which are vital for blind and partially sighted bus travellers.

The reception highlighted how announcements enable blind and partially sighted people to understand their location, and prevent them from missing their stops.

AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority of these buses operating in London.

Guide Dogs is calling for the Government to require all new buses be fitted with AV, as currently bus operators are under no obligation to include this technology when upgrading their fleet.

Buses are a lifeline for people who are blind or partially sighted to be able to travel safely and independently.”

Without AV, bus travel for people with sight loss can be especially difficult, stressful, and dangerous when stops are missed and they end up in an unfamiliar area.

Safe and accessible bus services give people with sight loss much greater freedom to work, socialise and participate in the community.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Labour to bring forward Bill to repeal David Cameron’s market framework in the NHS

This week, Labour will back a Private Member's Bill from Clive Efford MP to repeal the damaging competition rules that the Tory-led Government inflicted on the NHS in its Health and Social Care Act 2012.

The Bill would rewrite the rules that force market tendering of services and that are seeing millions of pounds wasted on competition lawyers that should instead be spent on patients.

It will be debated in the Commons in November and Labour will use the intervening period to call on MPs from all sides to support the new law. Labour candidates in marginal seats will call on Tory and Liberal Democrat incumbents to back the Bill, whilst highlighting examples of how the current rules are wasting money and fragmenting care.

David Cameron's biggest mistake by far is his decision to break the Coalition Agreement promise of 'no top-down re-organisation of the NHS'. He is the Prime Minister who put the NHS up for sale without first seeking the permission of the British public.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs will now need to decide whether they are prepared to go into an Election defending that policy or whether they will do the decent thing and admit they got it wrong.

David Cameron's re-organisation has left the NHS, in the words of its former Chief Executive, 'bogged down in a morass of competition law'. If we leave things as they are, the NHS as we have known it for 66 years will not survive. This Bill will free the NHS from that morass and restore the right values to its heart: collaboration over competition; people before profits.”

The Bill will focus on two main areas:

1. Section 75 rules

These are the rules that many doctors say are forcing them to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, for fear of legal challenge.

Labour oppose these regulations because they risk fragmenting care and are seeing large amounts of money spent on tendering exercises rather than patient care.

• In a recent survey by Health Service Journal, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014)

• Last year, the Chief Executive of the NHS said “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty...We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing . . . significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013).

Labour will scrap these rules and return to a system based on collaboration and integration.

2. Competition framework

The Health & Social Care Act exposed the NHS to the full force of EU competition law. It also established Monitor as an economic regulator to enforce competition in the NHS, along with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Labour opposes this framework because it is hindering important service improvements, and is seeing further large amounts of money wasted on competition administration and competition lawyers.

The Efford Bill would scrap the competition framework, remove the role of Monitor as an economic regulator enforcing competition in the NHS, and remove the Competition and Markets Authority from any role in the NHS.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

£2billion NHS Funding Gap

David Cameron chose to put NHS finances on this knife-edge when he wasted £3 billion on a damaging re-organisation and clawed back a further £3 billion to the Treasury in recent years. That is why the NHS is in a such a fragile financial position.

David Cameron is transferring large amounts of money out of the NHS to back-fill the hole he’s created in social care finances. I am worried that the Better Care Fund will set back the cause of integration and get it a bad name - the policy should be put on hold pending a full parliamentary debate.

NHS patients are already seeing waiting times and cancer care heading downhill on this Government’s watch - people will fear that much worse will be in store next year. It is why they don’t trust him with the NHS.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Why I am Backing a stronger National Minimum Wage

I am backing plans announced by Labour to strengthen the national minimum wage to ensure that people in Leigh who do a hard day’s work are rewarded for doing so.

Those on the lowest pay are at the sharpest end of the cost-of-living crisis. Families are on average £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron became Prime Minister and the value of the national minimum wage has declined by five per cent over the same period.

That’s why in September last year Labour asked Alan Buckle, former‎ Deputy Chairman at KPMG, to investigate how to strengthen the minimum wage.

The report, published today, argues for a new framework to ensure that the minimum wage rises faster over the next five years than it has in the recent past, as part of a national mission to tackle low pay and build a new economy with more high skill, high paid jobs.

The report recommends that the next Labour Government should set the Low Pay Commission a five-year target to increase the minimum wage to a more stretching proportion of median earnings.

I’m proud that the last Labour government introduced the National Minimum Wage.  This boosted pay for millions at the bottom without leading to a loss of jobs and now I can’t imagine a Britain without it.

But the issues we face today are different to those we faced at the end of the 1990s. That’s why I believe we need to strengthen the national minimum wage so that local people on low pay are properly rewarded for the work they do.

Bringing the increase in the minimum wage closer to median earnings over a five-year period will help us build an economy that works for everyone and not just a few at the top.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Monday, 19 May 2014

Lottery Scandal Must End!

Today I have called on Arts Lottery bosses to put right a major funding shortfall in Leigh.

New figures obtained by me from the House of Commons Library show that, over the first 20 years of the National Lottery, Leigh has received £265,167 - more than £6 million less than the average total per constituency of £6,444,923.

I am calling on the Arts Council to rectify the problem by supporting plans for the addition of a new performance space to the Turnpike Centre.

There can be no doubt - Leigh has been seriously short-changed from the Arts Lottery fund over its first 20 years.

The Arts world cannot continue to think it is acceptable to take the pounds of Leigh Lottery players and spend them on their elitist projects miles from here. It has got to change. Arts should be for everyone, everywhere.

There is a very simple way that the Arts Council could put things right. I am calling on them to get behind plans to add a theatre or performance space to the Turnpike Centre. It would be a focal point for Leigh's thriving creative scene and a place where our town could come together to celebrate the talent of our young people.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Sharp Decline in standards in England's hospitals

Reports disclosed to me by the official care standards regulator in England suggests a sharp decline in standards in England’s hospitals over the last 12 months.

In the last year, inspectors observed examples of unacceptably poor care at one in five hospitals. By March this year, the care regulator listed 45 hospitals not providing safe care following 215 inspections – close to three times the 16 hospitals failing on this measure in the same month in 2013.

In the same period, Care Quality Commission inspectors found 32 hospitals without adequate numbers of staff – more than one in six - after inspecting 175, up from 14 only a year earlier.

The inspectors’ official reports catalogue the failings witnessed, including:

  • a trebling of bed sores put down to under-staffing;
  • patients on the wrong wards not visited by doctors over the weekend;
  • patients transferred from other hospitals without any medical notes;
  • diabetic patient left without insulin;
  • unstaffed ambulance triage area, leaving patients and paramedics waiting;
  • unanswered call-bells;
  • patient needing fall assessment every 48 hours not seen for 3 weeks;
  • inexperienced A&E receptionist told patients with chest pains to take a seat, against hospital policy on suspected heart attacks;
  • patients at risk of malnutrition or dehydration not given assistance to eat and drink;
  • backlog of X-rays and CT scans reports caused by lack of staff;
  • an overreliance on locum and agency staff.

This provides indisputable proof that the NHS is heading seriously downhill on this Government’s watch. Hospitals across England are operating way beyond safe bed occupancy levels and without enough staff.

It is simply not good enough for the Government to blame the NHS, as they always trying to do. Hospitals are having to pick up the pieces from their botched policies. Severe strains on general practice, mental health and social care are piling pressure on hospitals. There is a limit to what hospitals can safely do and these reports show that many have now reached and even gone beyond it.

What we are now seeing are the consequences of David Cameron’s disastrous decision to destabilise the NHS with an unwanted and unnecessary re-organisation. Hospitals are struggling, NHS waiting lists are at a six-year high and it has got harder for millions to get a GP appointment.

But, as the NHS in England goes downhill, Ministers have spent the last year pointing the finger at the NHS in Wales. Self-serving spin like that is of no use to patients. People will rightly ask: why wasn’t their attention focused where it should have been - on services in England?

This explains why people have reached the conclusion the NHS is simply not safe in David Cameron’s hands. He must cut the spin and bring forward a credible plan to ensure hospitals are safe and properly staffed.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Supporting Whizz-Kidz

I met two very special people at the home of Everton FC ahead of my London Marathon challenge

For Whizz-Kidz, I am raising money specifically for two young people in Merseyside – Jacob aged 3 from Prescot, and Dan, 19 from Bootle – changing their lives with vital new mobility equipment that gives them independence.

I’m really pleased to be running the London Marathon for Whizz-Kidz, and to be able to support two young disabled people in the North West to get the equipment they need is fantastic. Previously, I met a young man who plays for Everton in the Community wheelchair league – using his Whizz-Kidz sports wheelchair which I think is a great link between my chosen charities.

Money raised for Everton in the Community by Andy will specifically be used to support ‘Pass on the Memories’ – a pioneering programme delivered by Everton in the Community, in partnership with Mersey Care NHS Trust, to support people living with dementia and their carers.

You can support my fundraising efforts by visiting my Justgiving Page.

Whizz-Kidz is a national charity and leading provider of mobility equipment, including powered and lightweight wheelchairs, life skills training and advice and support for disabled children, young people and their families.

Whizz-Kidz has changed the lives of over 18,000 disabled children since 1990 - often literally overnight. The charity estimates there are still over 70,000 children in the UK waiting for the right equipment to fit their young lives.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Weight-loss couple take up marathon challenge

They’ve already lost 15 stone between them but now Shirley and Kieran Lloyd face their biggest challenge yet.

The couple from Leigh are running this year’s London Marathon, which takes place in the capital on Sunday (April 13). Just 18 months ago they were overweight and unfit but now they’re ready to take on the gruelling 26 mile run after going through Wigan Council’s weight-loss programme.

And I was wishing them all the best as all three of us are running to raise funds for Wigan & Leigh Hospice.

I’m amazed at Shirley and Kieran’s achievements. They’ve both done remarkably well to lose so much weight and get fit enough to take on this challenge. They’re a great example for anyone who thinks they’d like to get in shape. I’d also like to pay tribute to Wigan Council’s weight-loss programme for helping them get to this point.

Supermarket checkout operator Shirley, 41, weighed over 16 stone at her heaviest. The mum-of-four blamed bad eating habits picked up during pregnancy for her excess weight. She lost five stone through Wigan Council’s Lose Weight Feel Great scheme, which involves a free 12 week Slimming World course and an exercise programme run by leisure provider WLCT.

IT worker Kieran, 34, weighed 23.5 stone in November 2012 when Shirley began her weight-loss journey. His wife’s success persuaded him to sign-up too. Kieran has now lost 10 stone.

The pair have been training hard for their first marathon and are hoping to raise more than £1,200 for the hospice. They’re aiming to complete the course in approximately four and a half hours and I'm aiming for a similar time.

I’ll look out for Shirley and Kieran during the marathon and hopefully we can encourage each other to keep going. My main aim is to beat Ed Balls.”

For more information on the Lose Weight Feel Great, call 01942 496496 or go online here.  

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Marathon Debut Challenge

Celebrating its new location, Regency Glass Ltd have pledged £500 to Wigan & Leigh Hospice to support my marathon run and have issued a unique challenge.

I will be running the Virgin London Marathon for the first time on Sunday, 13th April and will be raising funds for Wigan & Leigh Hospice's pioneering ‘Hospice In Your Home’ scheme.

The ‘Hospice in your Home’ service takes the skills, ethos and practical nursing care associated with the Wigan and Leigh Hospice into the home environment, seven days a week. It is provided by a small team of Qualified Nurses and Healthcare Assistants and aims to offer more time with patients and to give practical support and nursing care to patients and their carers.

I visited Regency Glass Ltd on Friday, 28th March at Hope Carr Industrial Estate to see some of the investment in new machinery made by the company. Founded in 1983, and employing over 80 local people, Regency Glass are a leading supplier of processed glass within the UK making a comprehensive range of Kitemarked sealed units and toughened glass to the domestic and commercial markets in the UK.

Regency Glass Ltd sponsored my fundraising for Wigan & Leigh Hospice to the tune of £500 but pledged to double this total if I finish ahead of shadow cabinet colleague and shadow chancellor, Ed Balls MP.

Regency Glass is a great Leigh success story and a company with a strong commitment to our area and its people. Their support for Wigan & Leigh Hospice is truly appreciated. But they have really put me on the spot with this challenge. With the marathon now just days away, I'm feeling under more pressure to deliver than David Moyes!

Whatever happens on the day, I will be proud to run through London to support our hospice which helps so many local families in their hour of need. But they could do even more. The sad fact is that too many people in this area end their life in hospital when they would rather be at home with their family. The 'Hospice In Your Home' will give that choice to more local families and I hope more local businesses will support it by sponsoring my run.

Donations can be made online here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Northern MPs call for Osborne to 'bring councils back from the brink'.

On the eve of the Chancellor’s budget speech, MPs representing some of the UK’s most impoverished councils gathered in Parliament to call on George Osborne to use his Budget speech to spread any benefits from an upturn in the economy beyond those areas in the South East, whose local economies are already improving.

The group of SIGOMA MPs, all representing local authorities outside the prosperous South East, have joined together to demand an immediate stop to further cuts in their councils’ budgets, which have seen some services in many boroughs stripped to their bare essentials and the most vulnerable and poorest put under increased pressure to make ends meet.

During the Chancellor’s almost four years in office many SIGOMA councils have seen significant and annual cuts to their budgets, with some councils losing over 25% of funding. The burden of the cuts has been specifically targeted to those with the highest levels of spend without recognising that that spend relates directly to the areas with the greatest levels of need and poverty.

The divide between councils representing prosperous areas and those with less well-off economies has also widened further as the Government has allowed councils to keep more of their business rates. Meaning those prosperous authorities receive yet more funding as business rates increase on the back of the economic upturn, but those with more struggling economies are left further behind.

SIGOMA councils are calling for a full evaluation of the total impact of the funding cuts since 2010 and seek to re-establish the link between the costs of services and the funding Central Government provides to run them. They argue that revenue cuts since 2010, and a greater level of top slicing of the Revenue Support Grant has left many SIGOMA councils desolate in comparison to many South East authorities which have borne little of the brunt of the funding cuts.

The Government has imposed the biggest funding reductions in the public sector on local councils. Funding for local government has been cut by 40% over this Parliament, with councils having to reduce their budgets by a total of £20 billion by 2015/16.

David Cameron and Eric Pickles are distributing these massive cuts unfairly – hitting those that can afford it least the hardest. It is scandalous that the areas with the greatest need are shouldering the largest reductions in central government funding.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Virgin London Marathon

I am getting ready to take on my first marathon challenge, raising money and awareness for Wigan & Leigh Hospice.

I will be running 26.2 miles in the Virgin London Marathon, and I hope to raise lots of money for Wigan & Leigh Hospice. The marathon takes place on Sunday 13th April and I will also be joined by parliamentary colleague and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP.

I visited Alan Baron, Chief Executive and staff at Wigan & Leigh Hospice today as I launched my online donation page here.

Fresh from the inaugural Wigan 10K last year, I have been putting in the hard miles of training when my parliamentary diary allows as the big day approaches.

I can be seen at weekends cutting a lonely figure on the East Lancs road in the wind and the sleet. But what keeps me going is the knowledge that the money raised will help to fund the important work that Wigan & Leigh Hospice undertakes across Leigh and the Borough.

I was asked what my target is for the marathon - to finish ahead of Ed Balls, obviously!

All money raised for Wigan and Leigh Hospice will go towards their ‘Hospice in your Home Service’, which is supporting patients and their families in Andy’s constituency, Leigh, and across the Wigan borough.

The ‘Hospice in your Home’ service takes the skills, ethos and practical nursing care associated with the Wigan and Leigh Hospice into the home environment, seven days a week. It is provided by a small team of Qualified Nurses and Healthcare Assistants and aims to offer more time with patients and to give practical support and nursing care to patients and their carers.

After testing in four pilot areas, Wigan and Leigh Hospice is looking to roll out the service across the local community.

Alan Baron, Chief Executive of Wigan & Leigh Hospice said,
“We are delighted that Andy has chosen to support the Hospice in his Marathon efforts. Andy has been a great supporter over many years."

“We need to raise over £7,000 each and every day to keep our services open. Our new “Hospice in your Home” service forms a major part of our expansion to enable more people to remain in the place of their choosing as they come to the end of their lives. Andy’s efforts and those of the thousands of other local people who have supported the Hospice over the last thirty years will enable us to continue spreading our reach.

“We wish him well on his run and I, for one, am sure that he can beat Ed Balls.”

Andy will be running the marathon in support of three charities:

Wigan & Leigh Hospice provides specialist palliative care services on as broad a basis as possible and at the highest quality achievable in both the Hospice and the community, thereby aiming to enhance the quality of life of individuals with a life-threatening illness.

Whizz-Kidz aims to improve the quality of life of disabled children and young people in the UK through the provision of customised mobility equipment. We also provide help and advice to the children and their families and raising awareness of mobility-related issues through national campaigning.

Everton in the Community is the official charity of Everton Football Club and is proud to deliver a range of programmes to promote health, education, social inclusion and equality of opportunity to over 30,000 participants every year across Merseyside and North Wales using the power of sport.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Launch of Independent Commission on Integrated Health & Social Care

I joined Sir John Oldham OBE in launching his report on plans to bring together NHS and care services. It proposes a single care team – doctors, nurses, therapists – working together to meet a personalised plan, with a greater emphasis placed on prevention and keeping people away from unnecessary hospital stays. Older people and their families would benefit from a single point of contact to coordinate all their care needs.

"This report is about re-founding the NHS for the 21st century and building it out for the whole person.

Whole person care starts in the home. We have to make the home the default setting for care - fundamentally rethinking how you care for older people. A person to coordinate your care so families are no longer passed from pillar to post.

But we don’t need new organisations to provide a higher standard of care - just give existing organisations a new job to do.

The Commission agrees that David Cameron’s NHS competition rules are fragmenting care, not integrating it. That’s why it repeats Labour’s call for them to be abolished.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

My offer to the Government to rescue scheme

I am calling for a series of tough new safeguards in exchange for Labour's support

I am calling on Ministers to use the Care Bill – due in the Commons next month – to introduce new protections, including:

• Tougher penalties for any misuse of data
• Secretary of State sign off on any application to access data and full transparency of all organisations granted access
• New opt-out arrangements by phone or online.

I have offered urgent talks with the Secretary of State to see if a way ahead could be found. If Ministers refuse to agree, I will bring amendments to the Care Bill and force a Commons vote on them.

Labour believes the Secretary of State may have misled the Commons. During Health Questions, Hunt claimed, “we have sent a leaflet to every house in the country.”

However, a Freedom of Information response from NHS England reveals that the unaddressed leaflet was not considered ‘exceptional’ post – common for nationwide Government communications – and therefore did not reach houses that ask Royal Mail not to deliver junk post.

Many people still report never having received the leaflet.

When he was appointed, the Health Secretary declared it his personal mission to have a “data revolution” in the NHS. What he has presided over is a spectacular collapse in public confidence in the use of that data. The only revolution he’s created is the growing public revolt against his scheme. And coming after his NHS 111 shambles, his court humiliation over Lewisham, it cements a growing reputation for incompetence.

The Health Secretary has presided over a spectacular collapse in public confidence in the use of that data. Even by this Government’s standards, this is a masterclass in incompetence. First, their useless glossy leaflet didn’t even go to every home as Ministers explicitly promised. Second, when people can’t even get through to their GP practice on the phone, let alone get an appointment, they have made it almost impossible for them to opt out.

We don’t want to see this scheme wrecked by Government incompetence – it is too important for that. This is a genuine offer to put the scheme back on track. We hope that Ministers’ pride won’t stop them from doing the right thing. If they work with us to introduce a series of tough new safeguards, some of which can be introduced to the Care Bill, we will help rescue this failing plan.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Health Select Committee report on public expenditure on NHS and social care

This report is a damning verdict from the Select Committee on the damage done to the NHS by David Cameron’s re-organisation.

It is now beyond question that the NHS has been left weakened, confused and fragmented by these changes. It is clear that it distracted focus from the financial challenge and resulted in crude and damaging cuts to frontline care. Ministers’ decision to force competition on the NHS is now beginning to cause real damage to patient care and is preventing the integration the service needs. The Committee is right to call for a review of these unwanted rules.

It is now clear that the Government must now revisit their plans for further brutal cuts to social care. If things are left as they are, it result in ever-greater hospitalisation of frail older people and that is no answer to the ageing society.

This report is a broad endorsement of Labour’s plans to integrate the NHS and social care and we welcome it. The Government must now admit its re-organisation was a mistake and repeal this market madness.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Go back to drawing board and re-connect Leigh to the rail network

I have formally responded to the HS2 Phase 2 Consultation, following a series of consultation meetings with residents in the Lowton and Golborne area.

The consultation is now closed and the Government is expected to announce how HS2 will proceed by the end of 2014.

My detailed submission covers the depot, the proposed Leigh Interchange and the nature of the proposed construction.

The Government's plans will deliver ‘maximum disruption and minimal benefit' to the Leigh area which has the poorest access to rail transport in the country. I also believe the plans as they stand fail to maximise the economic and transport benefits to North West taxpayers.

I have raised serious questions about the Government's decision to site the depot in the middle of the borough's 'Green Heart', as it breaches HS2's own states aim of avoiding sites of environmental and heritage importance. I have also called on the Government to investigate brownfield sites instead.

My response gives strong support to the proposal for a new Leigh Interchange, which has been championed by Transport for Leigh and Transport for Greater Manchester. I believe it provides the ‘best opportunity that the UK Government will ever have to correct the unfairness of its decision to rip out Leigh's rail network five decades ago'.

On the depot, the natural landscape of the Leigh and Wigan area is slowly recovering after centuries of coal mining and heavy industrialisation. What green areas we have are therefore precious to us and need to be respected.

In effect, Government is proposing to site a major industrial installation in an area of open countryside. This means that my constituency faces amongst the greatest level of disruption from HS2 of any in the country.
Locally, there is a strong feeling that a similar decision would not have been taken to site a depot in an area of environmental and heritage importance in the south of England.

The sheer scale of the depot facility, the disruption to residents, local road networks and the green fields it will destroy is not outweighed by the small number of jobs created. HS2 should go back to the drawing board.

The lack of rail transport has led to exponential growth in traffic volumes on the M6 and A580 in the five decades since our rail infrastructure was ripped out. The large numbers of commuters who now live in my constituency have no realistic choice other than to get in the car and join the morning queues. Looking to the rest of the 21st century, this is not sustainable in environmental, economic nor transport terms. It is not fair to Leigh constituents who pay for the rail network through their taxes but have limited access to it.

HS2 will succeed in building public support if, rather than cutting journey times between places that are already well-served, it opens up rail travel to more people than currently use the rail network on a regular basis. That means taking this opportunity to rethink rail travel and giving people more convenient ways to switch from car to train. The Leigh Interchange proposal will achieve that. It will also spread the economic and regeneration potential away from Manchester and towards communities along the Liverpool-Manchester corridor. With a connecting link to the Liverpool-Manchester railway line, it will give people in living Merseyside much easier access to HS2 and cut journey times from Merseyside to London.

On the proposed route, I conclude the nature of construction will blight properties not able to access the statutory compensation scheme. Alternatives including tunnelling should be considered to alleviate noise.

You can read my submission to the formal consultation here.

Friday, 24 January 2014

New Diagnostic & Treatment Centre for Leigh Infirmary

I was proud to officially open the new Hanover Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, the largest recent single development on the Leigh Infirmary site and a major improvement to NHS services for patients and staff in Leigh.

The largest clinical services building developed by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust since Phase IV opened at Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in 2004, the  Hanover Diagnostic & Treatment Centre is home to the Leigh Endoscopy Department, Richmond Urology Unit and Women’s Healthcare Unit, in addition to a new Endoscope Re-processing Unit.

In just nine months, the old Hanover building was transformed into an iconic landmark, a contemporary design delivering high quality services for Leigh Infirmary patients and staff.

WWL’s major investment in the Hanover Diagnostic and Treatment Centre means Leigh Infirmary now boasts a world-class NHS healthcare facility to complement the highly trained, multi-disciplinary team of expert consultants, nurses and allied health professionals.

The purpose built Leigh Endoscopy Unit is designed to provide a patient-centred experience which maintains the highest standards for comfort, safety and quality while safeguarding each patient’s privacy and dignity.

The Richmond Urology Unit is a one stop clinic to diagnose and treat patients with diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system, including bladder problems, vasectomy, prostate problems and cancer of the prostate, alongside a dedicated Urology Outpatient Suite.

The new Women’s Healthcare Unit sees a radical transformation of gynaecology services. General gynaecology outpatient and specialist clinics are provided side-by-side, with gynaecology ultrasound facilities providing immediate access to specialist scans. The philosophy is a ‘one stop’ service where all diagnostic tests are carried out during a single visit, whenever possible.