Weekly Round-Up

It’s been a busy week in Parliament this week. I started by joining the debate on Football Governance. Bristol City Football Club are key to both the culture and the economy of south Bristol. I recently met the chief executive, who is keen on the work done by Tracey Crouch MP and wants to see it progress. The report she led into English football called for the creation of an independent regulator for the game and greater powers for supporters and fans with an improved “owners and director’s test” for those looking to control local clubs. Rivalry in the city is intense, but I asked the Minister to join me in supporting the work of Caz May and Lucy Ford, who are fans of Bristol Rovers and the founders of Her Game Too. I also pressed the Minister for details of the review of women’s football. Getting more women involved in football can only bring benefits – team sports for women, the camaraderie involved, the opportunities for fun ways to keep fit and exercise, as well as the opportunities for young women to have inspirational role models. I hope that the work of Her Game Too, and all the women and girls involved in grassroots football, are included in that review.

This week I responded on behalf of the Labour Party in the debate on the Health and Care Bill. One of the major issues that the Government is still failing to address is around workforce challenges. Workforce planning is a huge issue in its own right, but it is also fundamental and cuts through everything we are talking about on health and social care. Chiefly, the problem is that unless we face up to the scale of the workforce challenge, the Government will not deliver the shorter waiting times that patients need. Until this Government breaks out of their straitjacket—unless somebody can make the Chancellor see reason—nothing is going to change for all our constituents. The Government should start today—otherwise patients will be left wondering why they are paying more and more in taxes but waiting longer for care.

The proposals around the care cap calculations are a less generous version of what was in the Care Act 2014 and this is a massive step backwards. Once again, I could read out a ring binder full of analysis and evidence provided by the legion of stakeholders, none of it complimentary. We hear the repeated claim, “This solves the problem of social care. It is fixed.” It simply is not. Let us leave aside the deeply insulting attitude that the care and support of people in need, who could live better, more fulfilled lives, is a “problem” to solve; we should be celebrating the fact that people can live better, for many years longer, with multiple conditions, with decent support and care. We all know that to be true. The proposals the Government have put forward do not deliver any more care; they just change who pays for it. Money will go to those with assets, and the less you have, the more they will take. The proposals will have no real impact for years, but we all know that people need help now.

I was pleased to be able to contribute to the debate on the National Strategy for Self-Care. Self-care refers to long-term conditions and preventive health measures. It is an important component for healthy living. We all need to be clear that self-care is not passing responsibility that should be with professionals to the individual, or that we are using self-care to prop up our increasingly underfunded health and social care systems. We need to look at self-care in a positive sense, as has been discussed, as empowering people and patients to know and understand their own bodies and their own physical and mental health, but also to know how to manage the many things that life throws at us all along the way, and to do that from a young age.

Self-care is about lifestyle choices, but also about better awareness of symptoms and when it is important to seek professional advice. Our professional systems should be set up with that in mind, starting with empowering people and not telling them all the time what they should be doing or expecting them to be at the end of a professional opinion. There are many examples, but with cancer symptoms, early diagnosis is crucial and we know that can be a matter of life and death. We also need to understand when an ailment can be treated by someone themselves, and when to do that, or by talking to community pharmacists. The more information we give people about self-care and when to seek help, the more we can help unburden the health service to deal with those who really need medical intervention. And the more we can help people to live healthy lives, physically and mentally.

This week I spoke on LBC and GB News about the High Court ruling that Government policies on discharging untested patients from hospital to care homes were unlawful. This ruling shows there was no such thing as a ‘protective ring’ around care home residents and carers during the pandemic. The Government failed on its duty of care and lost control of the situation. For years before the pandemic even began there was not the capacity in the social care system to enforce quarantine areas to control large numbers of infection, the Government knew this and knew about asymptomatic transmission before the first lockdown was implemented, but still failed to act. Care homes and social care have been an afterthought for some time, and with no plans from the Government to improve capacity, particularly staffing levels, I fear they have still not learnt from their mistakes.

On Thursday I attended the prorogation of Parliament. This is a long-established tradition whereby at the end of the parliamentary session MPs are called into the House of Lords by Black Rod to hear the Commissioners prorogue parliament. The Commissioners are appointed by the Queen to end the session when she cannot attend the ceremony, which historically the monarch never does. Prorogation marks the end of a parliamentary session, which usually lasts for a year. During the ceremony the clerks read out the Acts that have gained Royal Assent. Parliament is now closed until the Queen’s Speech opens the next Parliamentary session on 10th May.

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.