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 care.data 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 care.data 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

NHS CHECK: SPIRALLING COST OF CAMERON'S NHS MARKET DIVERTS MILLIONS FROM PATIENT CARE

REVEALED:

• 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.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

I'm backing Meningitis campaign

After hearing how meningitis devastated the family of little Corby Ashurst from Tyldersley, who died from meningitis less than a year ago, aged 6, I am backing a charity campaign to see a new lifesaving vaccine introduced – to spare others a similar pain.

I am supporting Meningitis UK and Meningitis Trust’s Beat it Now crusade to press the Government to make the revolutionary Meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero, available to all children on the NHS, after meeting Corby’s mum and dad Danielle and Steven Ashurst earlier this year.

Bexsero is the first Meningitis B vaccine to be licensed for use in the UK and will save so many lives, especially among the under fives, who are most at risk from the disease.

Meningitis B is the most common form of the disease in the UK and the country has one of the highest incidence rates in the world, affecting an average of 1,870 people each year.

One in 10 people affected will die and one in three will be left with life-changing after-effects such as brain damage or limb loss.

Corby’s mum and dad, Danielle and Steve Ashurst, who are committed to fighting back against meningitis together said: “We never imagined that meningitis would affect our family and take away our gorgeous son - he died just three days before his seventh birthday."

“Meningitis is a terrifying disease that can strike so quickly and anything we can do to stop others going through a similar ordeal is our goal. We want to keep Corby’s memory alive and save the lives of others."

“We are 100% behind the Beat It Now campaign as vaccines are the only way to protect families like ours against the trauma of meningitis. We cannot let the Government delay bringing in the vaccine, which is why we are delighted that our local MP, Andy Burnham, is on-board and giving his full support."

“The last major meningitis vaccine took five years to be introduced – there’s no way we can wait that long this time. And if cost is a factor, we cannot let that get in the way. You cannot put a price on someone like our son’s life.”

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Green Jobs vote is setback for Clean Power

Last week, I  voted to support renewable energy and jobs across the North West by backing a move to clean up UK power and tackle climate change.

I supported an amendment to the Energy Bill, currently in Parliament, that would set the Government a legal target to remove carbon emissions from the UK’s power supply almost entirely by 2030.

Businesses argue the move would reassure companies looking to make long-term investments in the green economy that could bring new jobs to the North West. It would end Britain’s heavy reliance on gas and would also stop rising gas prices from driving up fuel bills.

The vote was lost by just 23 votes!

Lord Alan Sugar, from TV’s The Apprentice and a member of the House of Lords, warned that unless the Government commits to clean power the UK risks busting its climate change targets and losing business and jobs abroad. Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, Campaign Ambassador for Friends of the Earth’s Clean British Energy campaign, said on Monday that it was a fantastic opportunity to revive British manufacturing and boost green growth.

A clean power target is expected to be a key issue when the Bill is debated in the House of Lords later this month.

The green economy supports almost a million jobs already and it is helping to stop dangerous climate change.
But green companies and their supply chains will only make long-term investments in Leigh and the North West if there’s a clear pathway for renewable energy in the future.

That’s why I voted for a target to cut the carbon from our electricity by 2030 – it would help stabilise the climate and provide much needed jobs, as well as keeping bills as low as possible in the long-term.

The Energy Bill is the key piece of policy that will make a difference to climate change in this parliament, and will determine the way we power the UK for the next generation.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Temporary closures increase as A&Es across England hit capacity

I have called on Jeremy Hunt to suspend all on-going A&E closures pending a personal review of the very latest evidence.

Information provided by the House of Commons Library shows a major increase in the number of occasions that A&Es in England were forced to close their doors to blue-light ambulances. Last year, the number of 'A&E diverts' jumped by almost a quarter - 24% - as hospitals reached capacity and were unable to cope with new ambulances.

Over recent weeks, hospitals including the Queens Hospital (Romford), Whipps Cross (Waltham Forest), Princess Royal (Bromley), Lewisham Hospital, Northwick Park, Newham, and King Georges (Ilford) have all turned ambulances away.

These diversions have occurred either when the ambulance is on the journey to hospital or in some cases after they have arrived. This wastes time for patients with emergency conditions before they can receive hospital care.

On Bank Holiday Monday, the Royal Liverpool Hospital had to divert patients to Fazakerley Hospital and Whiston Hospital for periods during both the morning and afternoon. Even when it re-opened ambulances had to queue and patients faced long-delays.

With the pressure on A&E showing no sign of abating, I called an emergency A&E Summit inviting NHS staff from a range of disciplines to give evidence to MPs - including ambulance staff, A&E doctors, nurses, GPs and community staff.

The Summit heard directly from staff about the pressures they face on a day-to-day basis.

A&Es across the country are in crisis and the pressure shows no sign of abating.We have yet more evidence that the situation has deteriorated significantly on this Government's watch, with ambulance diverts up by a quarter in the last year.

This is a crisis of their own making. Instead of casting round for others to blame, David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt need to accept responsibility and develop an urgent plan to relieve the pressure.

I am calling on the Health Secretary to suspend all planned A&E closures pending a personal review. The facts on the ground are changing fast and call into question the wisdom and safety of closing so many A&Es across England.

If convincing evidence can be produced to show lives can be saved by closing A&Es, Labour will not oppose them. But, as the pressure builds, the case is changing and the Health Secretary must err on the side of caution. The onus is on him to produce convincing evidence or drop these plans.

David Cameron and his Health Secretary have been caught out looking for scapegoats rather than finding solutions. They must cut the spin and get a grip without delay.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

All Systems Go for the Inaugural Leigh Games


Games will showcase talents of our young people as excitementbuilds in fitting legacy to the 2012 London Olympics

Excitement is growing ahead of the inaugural Leigh Games to be held on 1st and 2nd July at Leigh Sports Village.

The action packed two day event promises to be a fitting local legacy to the 2012 London Olympics and I am calling on local primary and secondary schools to participate in the inaugural event.

Organisers have now released details of the 2 day sporting extravaganza which will see primary schools participate on the 1st July with the secondary schools participating the following day.

Inspired by London 2012, organisers have also promised an Olympic style medal presentation and table for the victorious athletes and their school.

The launch will take place against the exciting triple announcement that former NBA Basketball legend John Amaechi is throwing his considerable support behind the Leigh Games with his attendance confirmed for the Basketball competition.

In addition, London 2012 Team GB Wheelchair Rugby captain Steve Brown will be attending the primary school events and on 2nd July Olympic Sprinter Jason Gardner on hand for the secondary school games.

I am also delighted to announce that Leigh based supermarket giant Morrisons and Golborne based Alpla UK Ltd are supporting the packed 2 day event as sponsors. Together with Leigh Sports Village, Wigan & Leigh Culture Leisure Trust, Active Energy, Premier Support and Leslie McGreevy (schools sports co-ordinator) I am calling on the whole community to get behind the games and support Leigh’s young people.

The excitement is growing as the countdown begins to this very special sporting event. This will be a fantastic opportunity for the whole community to come together and celebrate the achievements of our young people.

The London 2012 Olympics served to demonstrate the tremendous appetite for sport that exists in the UK and in 2013 the Leigh Games held at the iconic Leigh Sports Village will provide a festival of sport that the whole community in Leigh can be proud to support.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

At the media launch of Transport for Leigh at
Leigh Sports Village  28th March 2013
Lowton residents last week gave a cautious welcome to emerging plans for a new rail interchange off the East Lancs as part of the HS2 project - but put forward suggestions to improve them further.

I made good on my pledge to keep local residents updated on my discussions with the Government about HS2 when I hosted a public meeting at Lowton Social Club on Thursday, 25th April.

The meeting - attended by around 200 local people - heard a presentation from Ged Tyrell of Transport for Leigh who are campaigning to bring a rail station to the area. They are developing a costed and detailed plan to deliver this goal and hope to build support for it from across the North West.

Transport for Leigh believe the proposed HS2 route provides an excellent opportunity for the Leigh area to re-gain a station. It would link with the existing Liverpool-Manchester line to create a new interchange off the East Lancs. They believe this can be done at the earliest opportunity with the integration with HS2 at a later stage.

One suggestion put forward by residents which has already been adopted by Transport for Leigh is the inclusion of a relief road linking the proposed new station with Winwick Lane, diverting traffic away from the congested Lane Head area. I have also promised to build in other ideas raised at the meeting, including the protection of green space in the area around the proposed station.

Whilst HS2 will bring disruption, Mr Tyrrell believes it presents a ‘once in a lifetime’ to obtain a rail presence for the area rather than just having a HS2 rail line running through bringing all the disruption but with no advantage to the local community and business.

I informed residents of my meeting with the Transport Minister, Simon Burns MP and reported to the them that the Government has an 'open mind' about the idea of rail interchange station at Lowton and is prepared to consider a detailed proposal from campaigners.

Government officials have already accepted that the scheme proposed by Transport for Leigh is technically feasible and are open to looking at the deliverability of the project.

I don't think we'll ever get a better opportunity than this to re-connect our area to the rail network. The Government has given us a green light to prepare our case and I urge people to get behind Transport for Leigh and present a united front. People will have concerns - and we will do our best to respond to them - but we will be failing our children, grand-children and future generations if we don't grab this with both hands."

I will be facilitating meetings with neighbouring local authorities and the Passenger Transport bodies serving Gt Manchester and Merseyside with the aim of building a broad-based campaign in support of the plans.

Ged Tyrrell said, “This represents a once in a lifetime chance for the reinstatement of a rail link.  Something will not only provide opportunity for the local community, but the wider area, for us, and, more importantly, future generations to come.”

Neil Alistair Prescott from Transport for Leigh added, “Clearly the published route for HS2 raises strong opinions, both for and against. We can’t speak for HS2, we are representing the region from a local perspective, we can, however, influence the plan so that it works for our advantage.”

Further details of the Transport for Leigh proposal can be found on the website where there is access to an online survey and a Government e-petition.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Supporting Motability

On Friday (26th April) I presented the keys of a new Motability car to constituent Sylvia White. The presentation took place at Victoria Garage Ford, Chapel Street, Leigh.

Shirley, 68, has cerebral palsy, and has very limited use of her legs.  She said: “I cannot praise Motability enough. I originally had a blue trike, but since discovering Motability in 1984 I have driven a range of vehicles through the Scheme.

“My new Fiesta has several adaptations, which allow me to completely control the car with just my hands. I have limited use of my legs, so these adaptations are vital when I’m driving.

“The service at Victoria Garage Ford was fantastic and I’m really happy to be collecting my Fiesta. Without the Scheme I would be completely house-bound, so I am very grateful to Motability.”

"I was honoured to be handing Sylvia the keys to her new car. It is great to see that Sylvia has benefitted so much from Motability, like many others across the country. The Scheme is vital for supporting personal mobility, and I am delighted to see how it is making a difference in my constituency.”

Declan O'Mahony, Director of Motability, commented: “Motability has now been operating for 35 years and continues to go from strength to strength. In times of change, we remain dedicated to enhancing the independence of people like Sylvia.”

The Motability Scheme is the UK’s leading car scheme for disabled people.  It provides affordable, convenient, trouble-free motoring to over 610,000 disabled customers and their families. Powered wheelchairs and scooters can also be financed using the Motability Scheme.

The Scheme is available to anyone who is receiving the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance or the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement. Customers simply transfer their mobility allowance to Motability to lease or purchase a car, powered wheelchair or scooter.

The Scheme is directed and overseen by Motability, a national charity, which also provides financial assistance to customers, who would otherwise be unable to afford the mobility solution they need.

More information about the Motability Scheme can be obtained by telephoning 0845 456 4566 or online here.       

Monday, 18 March 2013

Mersey & Manchester MPs unite to lead ride in memory of Leah


Alongside Steve Rotherham MP we are putting friendly footballing rivalry to one side to take part in a charity bike ride for the Walton Centre in memory of Leah Davies.

Leah was 19yrs old when she was involved in a road accident in July 2012 and died as a result of her injuries, which included Brain and Spinal trauma in August 2012 at Salford Royal Hospital.

Leah’s family were able to spend precious time alongside Leah whist she fought for her life in the relatives accommodation unit at Salford Royal. Currently, the Walton Centre does not have a facility to support relatives staying, requiring them to spend from within their own personal resources to remain close to their loved ones.

The charity bike ride is set to take place on Sunday 24th March at 11am to raise money for the ‘Home from Home’ appeal for The Walton Centre in Liverpool. The bike ride will cover the 28 miles from Salford Royal Hospital to The Walton Centre in Liverpool. An online donation page has been set up at the following weblink.

British Cycling and Bike sponsor Pinarello are providing Steve and myself with cycles and equipment. As we are all raising funds for the Walton Centre, we want to promote cycling in the North West and the idea that it is possible to make longer journeys by bike.

As a resident of the area in which Leah lived, I have seen at first hand how the loss of Leah has deeply affected the whole community in Golborne and Lowton. She was loved by so many and, on Sunday, her generous and giving spirit will live on as we come together to raise money for a centre which is, quite simply, the NHS at its best and the pride of the North West."

Steve Rotheram MP said, "When Andy and I met Leah's family, we were humbled by their determination to turn personal tragedy into a positive drive for the common good. We're not the best cyclists in the world but we're getting on our bikes to show our support for Leah and her family as they raise funds for this most worthiest of causes. The Walton Centre helps thousands of people from across the North West and the country every year and I am proud to have it in my constituency."


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Loan Sharks Beware - Debtbusters Campaign Launch

Photo used with kind permission of  The Leigh Journal
A new campaign backed by the Borough’s MPs, Unify Credit Union Ltd, Citizens Advice and Wigan & Leigh Cooperative Party was launched on Saturday, 2nd March in Leigh, Ashton and Wigan town centres.

Over 500 people signed the Debtbusters petition at the event launches attended by Yvonne Fovargue, Lisa Nandy and myself.

Wigan & Leigh Debtbusters is set to raise awareness of the detriment caused by payday lenders and others and that affordable loans, free help and advice is available through the Borough’s Credit Unions and Citizens Advice Bureau.

The campaign launch comes against a background of growing statistics that demonstrate the impact of debt on UK households. The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) sets out how Household debt is set to rise by 36.3% in the next three years. By 2015 UK households will have amassed over two trillion pounds worth of debt.

39% of people are concerned about the amount of debt they owe and 43% think their personal financial situation will worsen in the next six months. A staggering 45% of people now say they frequently struggle to make it to payday, up by 8% since Christmas 2010.

In November 2011, 16% of individuals had become ‘zombie debtors’ – only able to service the interest of their debt and not reduce it, whilst 27% had no savings at all.

One in three (32%) of those who took out a ‘payday loan’ couldn’t pay it off, so had to get another one (so called ‘rollovers’).

The high-cost credit sector, made up of payday lenders, home credit providers and hire purchase agreements, is growing rapidly and increasingly causing many of its customers to get into severe
debt problems.

Campaigners have welcomed the news that a cap on the cost of credit is set to be introduced but they warn that this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and that regulation of the industry is required.

Labour & Cooperative Councillor for Astley-Mosley Common Jo Platt is set to raise the issue at this week’s full council. Cllr Jo Platt said, “Residents of the Borough are calling for action against legal loan sharks. Over the past couple of years they have proliferated in our area and the tough financial times means more and more people are turning to them and the extortionate loans which they offer.

“This motion sends a message that Wigan Council is serious about supporting our residents who are facing financial hardship. We support the introduction of a limit to cap the amount these companies can charge for loans, and we are committing to doing what we can locally to support responsible lending and discourage the loan sharks.”

A toxic mix of the rising cost of living, unemployment and wage freezes mean many Leigh households are struggling and a lack of regulation of this market by the Government means these legal loan sharks are
exploiting this to push many families further into debt.

With one in three payday loans taken out to pay off other payday loans it is clear these high cost credit products are problematic.

You can tweet your support for the campaign using the hashtag #WiganLeighDebtbusters