Weekly Round-Up

On Wednesday Labour gave Conservative MPs the chance to do the right thing in standing up to the Prime Minister and defending their constituents from the devastating cut to Universal Credit. Nearly half of all claimants of Universal Credit are already in work; it is simply disingenuous to suggest that a cut to these benefits is to encourage people into work. 2.5 million people in work are now set to face not only a cut in Universal Credit but also a tax rise. It is shameful that the very people who got us through this pandemic – keeping our shelves stocked, keeping our loved ones well and cared for in hospital and care homes – are in the firing line for a £1000 cut to their income every year. This £20 is what enables some families to put food on the table at the end of the week. That £20 also helps support the local economy and the growth that is so desperately needed after the difficult past two years. This cut is cruel and nonsensical and the Government must think again.

My main focus this week has been continued scrutiny of the Government’s Health and Care Bill. I’ve been pursuing the theme of ensuring that the important new bodies the Bill creates are properly accountable to local communities, and act in the interest of the patients they serve. Along with Labour colleagues, I supported a number of amendments to make this happen. We proposed that the Chairs of these Integrated Care Boards should be locally elected, and that Board members should be nominated by Directors of Public Health, mental health trusts, social care providers and trade union representatives, and a member representing patients. We also proposed that the Bill should include specific reference to health inequalities, so that NHS England has to take account of their effects when making decisions.

Although we weren’t able to secure all the changes we wanted, we did get a commitment from the Minister to look again at ways to ensure private companies don’t have a place on these new boards – and we await his proposals. I’ll of course keep you updated, but in the meantime if you’d like to find out more, you can see all the debates, votes and committees that have taken place on the Bill so far on the Parliamentary website.

I’ve had meetings this week with both the Bristol Mayor and the local Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss the most pressing issues facing Bristol South. The impact of the pandemic has been felt hugely across the community, particularly following a decade of Tory austerity. We need investment in infrastructure and services across the Bristol region to promote both physical and mental wellbeing that will help communities’ resilience in dealing with challenges that may arise in the coming years.

Earlier in the week we marked World Sepsis Day, an initiative launched by the Global Sepsis Alliance 10 years ago. Sepsis accounts for a staggering 11 million deaths worldwide annually and yet few people understand the causes and treatments of sepsis which make it the number one preventable cause of death worldwide. The following symptoms might indicate SEPSIS: Slurred speech or confusion, Extreme shivering, muscle pain or fever, Passing no urine all day, Severe breathlessness, It feels like you’re going to die, Skin mottled or discoloured. For more information, visit the World Sepsis Day website.

This weekend is the Great Bristol Run – good luck to all those taking part! I hope the weather will be better than is currently being forecast! With so many events cancelled last year, I know that there are many people keen on getting out, raising money for their charities, and pushing themselves to run or walk their best times. It’s also very exciting to see the first VI Runners Challenge for people who are registered as severely sight impaired. It’s fantastic to see Bristol promoting participation for all and following Team GB’s successes in the Olympics and Paralympics this year, I hope there are many more people who will see space for them to participate at whatever level or ability they are! Sport and community activities really are for everyone. Of course, to allow this event to happen, there will be some road closures, so if you are planning to travel on Sunday, check First Bus’ website for changes to scheduled services and the Bristol Post for information on road closures.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.