Weekly Round-Up

I was pleased to speak during neighbouring MP Darren Jones’ Adjournment debate this week to discuss the issues around access to NHS dentistry in Brisol and the south-west. Too many people are being told that they can only be taken on as patients in a fee-paying capacity; these patients cannot afford this and too many are being left without dental care. I am also hearing worrying news from pregnant women who have free access to dentistry care, but who are being denied access at such an important point in their lives. The Government Minister repeated the two common excuses: the impact of the Covid pandemic and the Labour Government. The underlying issues around access to NHS dentists were in place long before Covid struck – these inequalities in access to healthcare have only been exacerbated by Covid; Covid did not create them. The NHS dental contract has been in place since 2006 – introduced by a Labour Government – but the Conservatives have been in power since 2010. It is an incredibly weak and petty argument to suggest that the blame lies at Labour’s door. 16 years have passed since the NHS dental contract, it is only to be expected that the situation would change and that would need updating. It is time this Government took responsibility and stopped blaming a Government that was last in place 12 years ago. 

I was pleased to be able to speak in a debate in Westminster Hall on skin conditions and mental health. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin’s report is very powerful. It is very sobering that, despite similar reports in 2003 and 2013, so little has changed for people suffering from these conditions, both children and adults. The link between skin conditions and deterioration of emotional and psychological wellbeing are well documented and have been for some time. There is also strong evidence to suggest that, although people with skin conditions have much higher rates of common mental health conditions, they struggle to access psychological support. The APPG’s survey found 98% of respondents stating that their condition impacts their mental health, and only 18% saying that they could access support. It is very clear that: we need to improve access to specialist support, improve training and awareness through the health service, commission more psychodermatology services, improve staffing, support further research, and encourage further integration between psychology, psychiatry and dermatology. 

I was involved in discussions on the Down Syndrome Bill in Committee this week. We were there to go through the Bill line by line to ensure that it meets the requirements and will enhance the lives of those living with Downs Syndrome and their families. We must take every opportunity to remove all the barriers and to tackle stigma and the poverty of ambition that hold back progress in this area. The Bill is the perfect opportunity to do that, particularly around housing, mental health provision and education—all key areas that can really improve and empower those with Down syndrome across the country. This Bill is about people, not a condition; as it is implemented, we need to recognise that every individual will have their own specific needs. Social care is facing unprecedented strain, so new responsibilities must come with an assessment of investment.

I also joined the Committee debating the Draft Health and Social Care Act Amendments. I am particularly interested in the extension to the regulatory activities of the Care Quality Commission, the CQC, and determined that the Government’s unpreparedness does not put patients at risk. The Government should have completed a mandated review of regulations by April 2020. The CQC is responsible for the registration, inspection and monitoring of health and adult social care providers, including independent providers, under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. All providers of health and adult social care that carry out regulated activities are required to register with the CQC and demonstrate that they meet those fundamental standards, for the safety of our constituents. The CQC inspects and monitors the services that it registers. Although the pandemic brought about the suspension of routine inspections, the CQC still monitors providers using information such as people’s feedback, and it will continue to inspect where it sees evidence of risk of harm, deliberate abuse, systematic neglect or a significant breakdown in leadership. It is vital that this work continues to be done.

After several days in Westminster focusing on the intricate detail of upcoming bills, its was a welcome change to get out and about in the constituency at the end of the week and to meet people. On Thursday I was pleased to speak at Bristol Women’s Commission about their overview of women’s health in South Bristol. We discussed health inequalities – how they come about, what we can do locally about them, and what we need to do in Parliament –, we discussed the excellent work of the Domestic Violence Commission, women’s life expectancy in the constituency, and a health strategy for women. 

On Friday I was thrilled to be invited to join the celebrations of the opening of the new school building at Perry Court. The new school site looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see what sorts of things the children achieve in such a lovely setting. Children spend so much time in school – it is important that they do so somewhere where they are encouraged to learn, feel safe and happy, and that can meet the demands of the 21st century. 

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.