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.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Holocaust Memorial Day

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day, I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, honouring those who died during the Holocaust as well as the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured.

Monday 27th January will mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

May Logan Healthy Living Centre

I paid a visit to Liverpool Housing Trust’s May Logan Centre in December and was given a guided tour of the Merseyside healthy living centre which aims to improve the well being, health and quality of life for local people.

Every year 50,000 people use the centre’s services which include family planning, smoking cessation, Alder Hey clinics, cafe and IT suite.

The visit came about after Donna Kelly, housing and support director at Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT), attended a conference where I spoke about the NHS.

During the visit I watched a brief presentation about the May Logan Centre, took a guided tour of the building, spoke to staff and met local people taking part in an art therapy group, an exercise session for older people and parent toddler cookery course.

The May Logan Centre is a good example of the great work that can take place when health and social care come together under one roof. It’s clear from speaking to the dedicated staff and the people who use the centre that it’s a lifeline.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Figures show a worrying slump in A&E performance

The figures show a worrying slump in A&E performance that should set alarm bells ringing in 10 Downing Street.

Experts warned the Government about the A&E crisis but they refused to listen. Just weeks after Ministers said ‘the crisis is behind us’, patients have experienced the worst week in A&E so far this winter.

David Cameron’s fingerprints are all over this crisis. He wasted billions on an unnecessary reorganisation and threw the NHS into chaos. He’s made it harder to get a GP appointment, closed a quarter of NHS Walk-in Centres and made deep cuts to social care support - all the ingredients for the current pressures on A&E.

“The A&E crisis is yet more proof that the NHS is not safe in David Cameron’s hands.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2013 in review

2013 has been a hard year for many people across the Leigh area. The past 12 months have seen a number of new foodbanks spring up – a sad sign of the times we are in.

I am glad to represent a town that knows how to help others and I pay tribute to the volunteers who worked through the festive period to keep them open.

But I do wonder what things have come to in England 2013 - a country with more than enough food and money to go round - that foodbanks are needed.

I am the first to say that people should work if they can. But I don’t want to live in a country where children go hungry or where we punish or stigmatise those that can’t.

I know from speaking to people in my surgery just how much hardship has been caused by policies like the bedroom tax. I was pleased when my own party came out clearly against it but there is more we need to do make this country fairer.

In 2014, I will continue to argue for an end to zero-hours contracts, a modern scourge that denies security to so many in Leigh, as well as a freeze on energy bills and a living wage for all.

Thankfully, 2013 has not been all bad news.

It will go down as the year when Leigh lit up the Rugby league World Cup with a memorable night at the LSV and when we finally waved goodbye to ‘Kamikaze Island’.

It will also be remembered for a magnificent trophy double.

I’m talking, of course, about the Northern Rail Cup and the Conference Challenge Trophy - not some old pots won by that town two miles past Hindley!

It was great that Leigh Miners won their famous victory on home turf, while the Centurions’ second half performance in Halifax – running riot in front of the massed cherry and white ranks – will live long in the memory.

It was a timely reminder to the sport’s powers-that-be that there is no stronger RL bedrock than our town. I hope 2014 will bring more confident steps back towards Super League.

More widely, 2013 saw the continued economic revival of our town.

When I first stood for election in 2001, I remember standing on Bradshawgate and asking people what Leigh most needed.

The list went something like this: a swimming baths, a cinema, a Marks & Spencer’s and a railway station.

It is a measure of the progress Leigh has made in the past decade that we can now cross off three of those items.

But, of course, it is the last that remains the most important. I know that the job I set out to do to do all those years ago to put Leigh back on its feet will not truly be done until it is reconnected to the rail network.

I see that as utterly essential to the prosperity of Leigh and its people in this century and the next.

HS2 represents the best chance I will ever get to achieve this.

This will be the only time in our lifetimes that the UK Government lays new railtrack in this constituency. On your behalf, and on behalf of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I have to try and make the most of it.

But I am well aware that HS2 is not universally popular and will cause major disruption for people in Lowton and Golborne.

That’s why, early in the New Year, I will hold two meetings – one in Golborne and one in Lowton – with the purpose of capturing all the concerns people have. This is so that, regardless of whether or not I agree, I can do a proper job of representing the full range of opinion to the Government.

The first meeting will be at the Golborne Community Bowling Club on 3 January; the second at Lowton Social Club on 9 January. Both start at 7.30pm and all are welcome.

The consultation on the proposed route closes at the end of January and I propose to submit a detailed paper based on my meetings.

But I am already clear that I will be making putting two clear points to the Government.

First, I will ask them to come back with a range of options and locations for the proposed depot, rather than presenting us with a fait accompli.

Second, I will call for a new station interchange at the point HS2 crosses the East Lancs, with a loop off the Liverpool-Manchester line.

If the Government fails to listen, I have to say I will find it very hard to justify HS2 to my constituents.

Why should they continue to be expected to pay taxes for the rail network only for all the money to be spent elsewhere?

Please be assured that I will be making that point loudly on your behalf over the coming months.

2014 will see other developments that will continue the regeneration of Leigh.

It should finally see the start of work to complete the regeneration of Plank Lane.

Back in 2008, after the financial crash, the scheme to regenerate the former pit site was on the verge of collapse.

As there was no immediate prospect of a housing development, the Government had threatened to withdraw the public investment.

But I will always be grateful to Margaret Beckett MP, the then Housing Minister, who agreed to release the public money to pay for the infrastructure works and new marina so the chance wasn’t lost to develop the site in the future.

It looks like that decision will soon pay dividends.

In 2014, work is expected to begin on a new development that will provide an outstanding new western gateway to Leigh. Once again, people’s perceptions of our town will be changed for the better.

One of my other regeneration priorities this year has been the Glebe, Gordon and Selwyn Street.

Together with councillors, I have held a number of meetings with residents to develop plans to improve it.

The area has suffered since the closure of Hilton Park and the relocation of Leigh East and there has been a rise in anti-social behaviour.

Now there is a realistic prospect that we can turn things around.

The 5 Boroughs mental health trust has put forward plans to rebuild a high-quality hospital development on the old Leigh East and clinic part of the site.

As part of this, I have asked the council to consider designating the wider area a ‘renewal area’ so we can pool planning gain and Lottery money to improve the surrounding streets.

The residents have shown great understanding and it is great that their patience may soon be rewarded.

Working with them has been a reminder of the decency of the Leigh people I am lucky to represent.

Their sheer generosity never ceases to inspire me, be it helping support our foodbanks or the fundraising campaigns we have seen in the past year.

Other places may have more money than we do. But nowhere is richer in community spirit than Leigh and I wouldn’t want to represent anywhere else.

You continue to give me tremendous backing through all the ups and downs of politics. I remain grateful for that and will do my best to repay you in 2014.

A happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

Monday, 30 December 2013



• Competition lawyers cream off at least £5m from NHS commissioners alone in first six months of compulsory tendering of NHS services - equivalent to cost of over 5,670 cataract operations, 873 knee operations or 841 hip replacements.

• New survey shows 9 in 10 hospital leaders want incoming NHS chief executive to make removal of competition regulations his top priority

• Current NHS Chief Executive says NHS is "bogged down in a morass of competition law" following passing of Health & Social Care Act 2012 and says it should be changed

The growing cost of market reforms imposed on the NHS by the Health & Social Care Act 2012 is revealed by Labour for the first time.

A Freedom of Information request by the Labour Party to new NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups has found that the NHS commissioners spent at least £5m on competition lawyers in the sixth months since they were set up in April 2013.

Labour conducted the survey after hearing of concerns from people serving on CCGs about an explosion in spending on legal spending arising from open tenders. However, the full amount being spent by the NHS on competition lawyers is likely to be much higher than £5m, which does not include costs faced by hospitals. NHS providers and hospital trusts also report a sharp rise in legal bills but were not included in the survey. In addition to the figures reported here covering legal advice, CCGs will have their own in-house costs for managing the tendering process under the Government’s new framework.

This new expenditure is a direct result of David Cameron’s decision to open the NHS to full market forces in 2013, with private companies given equal right to bid for NHS contracts under the 'Any Qualified Provider' principle.

Despite Government claims to the contrary, NHS bodies report that Section 75 of the new Act requires open tendering of NHS services. The Act exposes the NHS to the glare of UK competition law by making it subject to the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Competition Commission. As a result of these changes, NHS commissioners are racking up lawyers' bills running into millions for advice on applying these new rules and handling disputes between providers.

The £5 million that has to date been diverted from patient care would be enough to pay for 5,670 cataract operations, 873 knee operations or 841 hip replacements - operations which have faced growing restrictions from new CCGs.

The figures are disclosed as a new survey of hospital bosses shows 9 in ten want the incoming NHS chief executive to make cutting back the new competition rules his top priority. The call follows an admission from the outgoing chief executive that the Government’s re-organisation had left the NHS drowning in a “morass of competition law”.

Labour today restates its commitment to restore an NHS based on collaboration, not competition. We will free the NHS from the damaging effects of competition law by repealing the Health & Social Care Act 2012. To avoid a further structural re-organisation, we will deliver our new vision of Whole Person Care through the bodies we inherit.

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“While the NHS has been throwing cash at lawyers, more and more older people have been denied essential operations and the A&E crisis has got worse.

"It is taking millions away from patient care and holding back changes that the NHS needs to make. Since April this year, the NHS has been unable to make sensible changes to services without consulting competition lawyers - it is a ridiculous state of affairs that can't go on.

"We are beginning to see the true cost of David Cameron's decision to put market forces at the heart of the NHS. He needs to be reminded that nobody has ever given him their permission to put the NHS up for sale. His re-organisation has wasted billions and put the wrong values at the heart of the NHS. Labour will repeal Cameron's Health Act and free the NHS from this market madness."

Freedom of Information request findings

190 bodies responded to the request – 90% of England’s 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – with 76 bodies providing exact figures on the cost of competition lawyers. The running total reached £5,007,346 - a sum that could pay the annual salary of around 120 nurses.

12 CCGs spent over £100k, with Sandwell spending half a million and Nene CCG in Northamptonshire spending £330k. Bedfordshire CCG disclosed a cost of £4k for legal advice in relation to the Government-enforced tendering of the musculoskeletal service. Following the open process, the contract was awarded to private firm Circle in August 2013 at a value of £120m over 5 years. (See Annexe A for detailed breakdown.)

The figures from Clinical Commissioning Groups make up only one part of NHS spending on competition lawyers, as hospitals trusts face the same challenges. In addition, CCGs may have significant in-house capacity specifically for managing the competitive tendering process under the Government’s new market framework.

Hospitals want competition law burden to be top priority

A survey published by the Health Service Journal on 19th December 2013 asked hospital chief executives for their priorities for the incoming NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, who takes control in April 2014.

It revealed 88% calling for a “change to competition and choice rules to reduce their effect on the NHS” – the top priority for hospital chiefs.

Since April there have already been several instances of competition considerations interfering with and even overriding the views of clinicians.

The most notable example, now setting a dangerous precedent in the NHS, came in Bournemouth in October when the hospital made a clinical case for merging with the neighbouring Poole trust. The Competition Commission blocked the proposal on the basis that it would lead to a substantial lessening of competition.

Similarly, a merger between King’s College Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and South London and Maudsley trusts has been put on hold indefinitely, citing competition rules a major barrier.

“Bogged down in a morass of competition law”

Last month, at the Health Select Committee, the outgoing NHS England Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson highlighted the cost and frustration caused by increased competition law in the NHS. Commenting on the new rules he said:

“I think we’ve got a problem, which may need legislative change.

“What is happening at the moment ... we are getting bogged down in a morass of competition law ... causing significant cost in the system and great frustration for people in the service about making change happen.

“In which case, to make integration happen we will need to change it [the law].”
6th November 2013

Mandated tendering in the NHS

During the passage of the Health and Social Care Act, Ministers gave repeated assurances that doctors would have final say over when to use competition. However, on the eve of the legislation coming into force this year, regulations brought forward under Section 75 of the Act mandated market tendering on commissioners in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

As a result, the regulations are creating a culture of defensive contracting, where commissioners will put a contract out to tender if there is any doubt that a failure to do so could expose the NHS to a possible damages claim from private providers.

During the debate in early 2013 about the regulations, medical Royal College leaders warned that, under the Government’s plans, decisions about who provides services to patients will not be made by clinicians, but lawyers instead.

Clinical Commissioning Groups are now guided by legal advice on competition and contract tendering. The document shows the costs of that advice in the first months of the new system.

CCG Name and Legal costs

Sandwell and West Birmingham £503,310
Nene £331,356.00
Southern Derbyshire £273,000
Leeds South and East £272,431
North Derbyshire £251,000
Rotherham £206,736
West Cheshire £176,544.56
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough £147,967.49
Basildon and Brentwood £144,000
East Leicestershire and Rutland £129,069.00
Castle Point and Rochford £120,633
St Helens £101,432
Coastal West Sussex £97,211.00
Hardwick £96,877
Hull £95,580
Merton £88,414
Milton Keynes £88,000
Halton £87,409
Wigan Borough £84,345
Lewisham £84,312
Richmond £83,527
North Hampshire £81,043
Knowsley £80,990
South Sefton £80,044
South Eastern Hampshire £80,000
Thurrock £68,984
Isle of Wight £68,500
Crawley £68,273
Southport and Formby £64,680
Nottingham City £64,416
Central Manchester £61,965.36
North Manchester £61,965.36
South Manchester £61,965.36
West Leicestershire £61,694.40
Sutton £56,437
West Hampshire £55,544
Corby £47,524.00
Horsham and Mid Sussex £43,695.00
Stafford and Surrounds £41,826
Cannock Chase £38,197
East Surrey £36,927.80
Gloucestershire £35,931.60
Vale Royal £34,000
Fylde and Wyre £31,094
Redditch and Bromsgrove £27,000
South Worcestershire £27,000
Wyre Forest £27,000
Bexley £20,160
Norwich £15,600
East and North Hertfordshire £15,000
Dudley £9,732
Bedfordshire £9,631.20
Cumbria £8,483
Coventry and Rugby £7,474
Liverpool £6,000
Bath and North East Somerset £5,344.00
Waltham Forest £4,823
Mansfield and Ashfield £4,709.00
Warwickshire North £3,726.43
Ipswich and East Suffolk £3,246.93
Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley £2,898
Barnsley £2,467.18
South Warwickshire £2,400
Nottingham North and East £2,169.00
West Suffolk £1,995.13
Rushcliffe £1,826.00
Newark and Sherwood £1,813.00
Chiltern 1,686.47
Nottingham West £1,403.00
South Devon and Torbay £1,400
Doncaster £1,200
Newham £1,156.80
Dorset £1,150.50
TOTAL £5,007,346

Source: Labour Party Freedom of Information request to all NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in England.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Nursing numbers falling to dangerous levels

There are today close to 6,000 fewer nurses in the NHS than when this Government came to power. As a result, too many hospitals in England do not have safe staffing levels.

I have repeatedly warned the Government about nurse numbers falling to dangerous levels. This new focus on recruitment is overdue but it shouldn’t have taken this long and it won’t be enough to repair the damage of three years of falling nurse numbers on David Cameron’s watch. He is allowing the NHS to go into a dangerous winter with a shortage of nurses and with increasing numbers of older people being admitted because of this Government’s deep cuts in social care.

Labour is committed to safe staffing levels in hospitals based on expert advice. The Government is yet to deliver a convincing plan for bringing all hospitals in England back up to safe staffing levels.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Prime Minister is presiding over an A&E brain drain

Two years ago, the battle over the Health and Social Care Bill was reaching its peak. Doctors and nurses knew the dangers of reorganising the NHS at a time of financial crisis. They pleaded with the Prime Minister to call it off. He refused.

The result has been two lost years. At a stroke, minds focused on the managerial merry-go-round rather than more important issues, such as the recruitment crisis in England’s A&E departments. As this newspaper has revealed, millions were siphoned out of the NHS front line to fund thousands of six-figure payoffs. Now we also have the return of the NHS winter crisis.

In fact, it’s worse than that: 2013 has been the worst year in A&E for at least a decade, with one million people waiting more than four hours to be seen and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. The NHS stands in an even worse position than last year, with fewer nurses, fewer beds, a shortage of senior A&E doctors and social care support further reduced.

New figures today show that in the past three years half of all vacancies for senior A&E doctors — 383 specialist registration posts — went unfilled, according to the College of Emergency Medicine. In terms of capacity, that takes out the ability to see 766,000 patients each year.

This year the problem is getting worse, with experts warning of a vicious circle: the worse things get in A&E, the harder it becomes to attract the best doctors to work here rather than overseas.
Sadly, it isn’t any wonder A&E departments are struggling to recruit. The pressure has become intolerable since alternatives to casualty were taken away. The dismantling of NHS Direct, a trusted and established service, ranks as one of this Government’s worst acts of vandalism. The privatised 111 service has replaced nurses with call handlers and computers who too often send people to A&E unnecessarily.

To add to that, we now learn from an NHS regulator that a quarter of NHS walk-in centres have closed since the election. This comes as people are finding it harder to see a GP, since the Government scrapped the guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours. To complete this miserable picture, severe cuts to council budgets mean that many older people are no longer getting social care support at home and are turning up at A&E in ever greater numbers.

David Cameron’s fingerprints are all over this A&E crisis. But his response so far is: “Crisis, what crisis?” The NHS urgently needs him to snap out of this complacency.

(This article was originally printed in the Times on Monday 11th November)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Veterans Luncheon on eve of Remembrance weekend.

Pic with Mr Joseph Partington and the Mayor
I today hosted my annual Veterans Luncheon at Leigh Miners Welfare Institute.

Now in its 8th year, over 150 veterans and guests attended the luncheon and tucked into food supplied by Claphams Bakery and Leigh Sainsbury’s.

Joining me was the Mayor and Councillors representing wards in the Leigh area.

Alderman Tom Sherratt acted as MC for the day and attendees enjoyed a wonderful performance by the Brass Band of Fred Longworth High School.

The luncheon was also the opportunity to reflect on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in 1953. Over 82,000 British servicemen fought in the War and more than 1,000 died in the conflict held during the Cold War period.

I was also honoured to present a HM Armed Forces Veteran Lapel Badge to Mr Joseph Partington, aged 79 of Rutland Ave, Lowton who served in the Army during the 1950s.

It is always fantastic to see so many of our veteran community all together on the eve of this very special weekend when we remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we all enjoy today.

Veterans continue to play a special role in our community and today is a thank you to them for all that they have done and continue to do in the service of our country.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

She’s the golden girl... and now swimming sensation Heather Frederikson has a postbox permanently painted in her honour

Pic with Heather Frederikson on
Mon, 21st Oct 2013. Pic used with kind
permission of The Leigh Journal.
Royal Mail painters descended on the red postbox on Market Place, Leigh in 2012 to paint it gold and have now announced that the post box will remain gold as a permanent reminder of Heather’s achievement and the historic games.

Royal Mail has painted more than 100 of its iconic and much-loved red post boxes gold to celebrate every Team GB and Paralympics GB gold medal won during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The post boxes will remain permanently gold to mark the achievements of the athletes and the historic Games.

Heather secured the gold medal in the Women’s 100m Backstroke, S8 competition and is also a face on a Royal Mail stamp issued in the glow of her London 2012 victory.

This is a unique and highly visible recognition of the success of Team GB, but in particular Heather’s superb victory at London 2012.

She is an inspiration and I know that the whole Leigh community is very proud of her achievements.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

I'm backing campaign to encourage people to find out their risk of Type 2 Diabetes

I have backed a campaign by Diabetes UK to reach the 7 million people in the UK who are at high risk of Type 2 diabetes and he is urging people to have their risk of the condition checked.

The Diabetes UK campaign, funded by  its National Charity Partnership with Tesco, aims to help people understand the seriousness of Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to devastating health complications such as amputation, blindness and stroke, so that people understand the importance of preventing it.

The campaign will also raise awareness of the risk factors of the condition – being over 40 (or over 25 if you are from a South Asian background); being overweight or having a close family member with diabetes – and is urging people to take a risk assessment if any of these risk factors apply to them. People can do this online , or by visiting a pharmacy or by going to their GP. Those at high risk can then be given information about how to reduce their risk as up to 80 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through healthy lifestyle changes.

As well as identifying those at high risk, the campaign is expected to identify some of the estimated 850,000 people in the country who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. It is really important that these people are detected as if the condition is not diagnosed early, or is left untreated, it is more likely to lead to devastating complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation.

Type 2 diabetes is a very serious condition that can lead to devastating complications such as blindness, amputations and stroke and can have a devastating impact on both the people affected and their families. Yet there are many people in Leigh who at high risk of the condition or already have it but don’t know it. It is important that these people get assessed so that they can get the treatment and support that they need to reduce their risk or manage the condition. This is why I’m backing Diabetes UK’s campaign and urging people in Leigh to make themselves aware of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and to have a risk assessment if any risk factors apply to them. It is one of the best things you can do for your health and for your family.

People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly (known as insulin resistance).  85 to 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2.  They might get Type 2 diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk.  They are also more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if they are overweight.  It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realise they have it. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity.  In addition, tablets and/or insulin can be required. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

An invitation to Leigh's Veteran Community

I will be hosting my annual Veterans Luncheon on Friday, 8th November 2013 at Leigh Miners’ Welfare Institute commencing at 12noon.

Now in its 8th year the event brings together veterans from across the Leigh Constituency as well as veteran organisations. Over 150 veterans attended the 2012 event.

I have written to veterans across the constituency but am conscious that there will be veterans who do not receive a formal invite and I am keen to raise awareness of the event. Veterans can confirm their attendance by calling my office on 01942 682353 or by email here.

I know that veterans across the community look forward to attending, catching up with comrades and remembering the contribution and sacrifice of all those who have served their country across the globe.

I hope that this small gesture will show Leigh’s appreciation for the valuable service our local veterans have given and continue to give to local life.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Work starts on Leigh Guided Busway

Pic with Bob Morris (TfGM), Peter Commins (Balfour Beatty),
Cllr Mark Aldred (TfGM ViceChair)
and Cllr Andrew Fender (TfGM Chair).
Construction work has started on Leigh’s guided busway.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has appointed Balfour Beatty to design and construct the 4.5 mile busway, which will run from Leigh to Ellenbrook in Salford.

Due to open in 2015, the busway forms part of a 21km high quality bus priority route being developed between Leigh, Salford and Manchester.

The only vehicles able to use the guided section will be specially adapted buses, allowing them to avoid traffic congestion and offer passengers a smooth ride.

Services will run along on-highway bus lanes on the A580 through to Manchester city centre – providing the first cross city links from Leigh to key employment, education, health, leisure and retail destinations.

The 14 stop route (seven in each direction) follows the former railway route between East Bond Street in Leigh and Newearth Road in Ellenbrook. Walkers, cyclists and horse riders will be able to use a 4.5m wide path along the entire length of the busway, surfaced for use all year round.

All stops will be fully accessible, and will include shelters, CCTV and real time information.

Three park and ride sites will serve the busway, providing a minimum of 440 parking spaces. These will be located in Leigh, at Tyldesley Interchange and on the A580 East Lancashire Road near to the M60/61 junction.

The busway – between Leigh, Atherton and a section of the A580 East Lancashire Road to Walkden Road – will cost £68million. It is being funded through the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, for key transport priority projects.

I know many people are still to be persuaded of the merits of the Guided Busway. But the simple fact is Leigh urgently needs better public transport and this is the only project that can realistically be delivered in the next decade. Leigh can't wait forever for decent public transport.

I believe the Busway will be better than people expect and will bring a number of major benefits to the Leigh and Tyldesley areas. Not only will it halve travel times to Manchester at peak times, it will also bring more people and business back into Leigh town centre and support the continued revival of our town.

The Guided Busway alone won't solve Leigh's transport problems and that is why I will continue to make the case as best I can for a new rail station as part of HS2. I will also be working to ensure tickets for the Busway are affordable to all and a 45-minute journey time becomes a reality.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Dementia Pledge

I joined many other MPs and representatives from Alzheimer’s Society in Portcullis House, Westminster to provide a handwritten statement of the action I will take to support people with dementia and their carers. I pledged to campaign for better dementia care in his constituency of Leigh

One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and it is a health issue that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Alzheimer’s Society estimate there will be a million people with dementia by 2021. As a local MP it is important that I help to raise awareness and campaign for action to improve services available across the Leigh area.

Alzheimer’s Society campaigners were in Westminster to drum up political support for their trailblazing Dementia Friends initiative that launched in February this year. Dementia Friends aims to help people understand what it might be like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into action. Alzheimer’s Society is aiming to have one million Dementia Friends by 2015, to help make England more dementia-friendly and improve the lives of the 650,000 people currently living with the condition.

If you are interested in becoming a Dementia Friend or helping create more communities that are dementia friendly, visit Dementia Friends  to find your nearest information session or to volunteer as a Dementia Friends Champion.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Rugby League World Cup 2013

Pic with Lisa Nandy MP and Martin Offiah.
I joined with parliamentary colleague and Wigan MP, Lisa Nandy in celebrating the upcoming Rugby League World Cup at a reception in Parliament.

A total of 26 games will be played after the tournament kicks off on October 26th at the Millennium Stadium. The semi-finals will be played in a double header branded the ‘Big Hit’ at Wembley before the winners will be crowned after the final at Old Trafford on 30th November.

Leigh Sports Village will be hosting the Tonga v Cook Islands on Bonfire Night, 5th November.

It’s terrific that another huge multi-national sporting tournament is coming to the UK and to Leigh only a year after the Olympics, and after hearing how well things are going in the England camp from Head Coach Steve McNamara, we stand a great chance of becoming World Champions once again.

As well as a national event, the World Cup is something we in Leigh can all look forward to and take part in as we are hosting one of the games. I’m really looking forward to seeing the action.

Martin Offiah said, “By definition, World Cups are the very best a sport has to offer, and with the teams and athletes involved in this year’s tournament we are sure to see some fantastic games. Off the field, we already know it’s going to be the biggest yet, with everything in place and unprecedented ticket sales. I can’t wait and I would encourage anyone to get to a game to see some of the best sportsmen in the world.”

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

NHS Workforce Stats show huge cut in Nursing numbers

In response to the publication of NHS workforce statistics this morning showing that the number of nurses in the NHS has been cut by 4,893 since May 2010 it is clear that the NHS simply cannot continue to take nursing cuts on this scale and maintain standards of patient care. Jobs losses on this scale are dangerous.

David Cameron likes to blame everyone else but these figures show he is ignoring warnings from Robert Francis and Bruce Keogh about the importance of safe staffing levels.

The NHS has now lost almost 5,000 nurses on Cameron's watch and A&Es across England have struggled to cope. A re-organisation no-one wanted has siphoned £3 billion out of the front-line. This Prime Minister has given six-figure pay-offs to managers and P45s for nurses.

David Cameron must urgently intervene to ensure safe staffing levels in our hospitals. These dangerous cuts show that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cut Fuel Bills with the Smart Meter

I have welcomed the news today that over 2,000 households in Leigh are already benefiting from increased control over energy bills through British Gas smart meters, with average annual savings of £65 per household.

Smart meters mean for the first time, households can see how much gas and electricity they are using, as they use it, and how much that costs in pounds and pence. By gaining insight into what they are spending and where, consumers can take control over their energy use and consequently their bills. Smart meters also send meter readings to suppliers automatically, seeing an end to estimated bills.

All energy companies are required to deliver smart meters to every home and business in the country by 2020, with British Gas already installing one million smart meters - around 75% of the total currently installed in Britain today.

At a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet, this is good news for the families in Leigh. Energy bills are a big worry for some households and anything that can provide greater transparency and help people take control of their costs and reduce waste is welcome.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cystic Fibrosis Week

I met with representatives of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and families affected by cystic fibrosis at an event at the House of Commons.The event aimed to raise awareness amongst MPs and other key decision-makers about important issues for people with cystic fibrosis and the transplantation process.

1 in 3 of those with cystic fibrosis who are on the transplant list will die waiting. Cystic fibrosis is a life-shortening genetic condition affecting 10,000 people in the UK. New treatments and better clinical care are helping people with cystic fibrosis to live longer but many will still reach a point where their only hope is a double lung transplant.

I was delighted to attend this event and learn first hand some of the issues that affect my constituents living with cystic fibrosis. I was also able to learn about the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and find out more about their open consultation looking at the issues affecting the number of lung transplants for people with cystic fibrosis.”

Most people don’t understand what cystic fibrosis is, or what it does, until someone close to them is affected by it. They soon discover it’s a life-shortening genetic condition - only half live to celebrate their fortieth birthday.

Cystic fibrosis directly affects around 10,000 people in the UK.

The faulty gene is carried by over two million people in the UK, most of whom have no idea. If two carriers have children, there’s a one in four chance their child will have the condition, which slowly destroys the lungs and digestive system.

People with cystic fibrosis often look perfectly healthy. But it’s a lifelong challenge involving a vast daily intake of drugs, time-consuming physiotherapy and isolation from others with the condition. It places a huge burden on those around them and the condition can critically escalate at any moment.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is here to beat it and make a daily difference to the lives of those with cystic fibrosis, and the people who care for them. Fighting it is a battle we must win. That’s why we must keep working for and fundraising for change. That's why we must develop better treatments and, ultimately, a cure. Cystic fibrosis is beatable. Find out more here or call the helpline 0300 373 1000.