Weekly Round-Up :: 08 September 2023

I’m delighted to join the His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’s Health team as the Shadow Minister for Health focusing on NHS reform. This follows on from my time provided maternity leave cover for the Opposition Health team. As many of you know, before becoming your Member of Parliament, I was an NHS manager and I’m looking forward to bringing this experience with me into the role.

Schools are back as well but it’s been a very stressful first week back for parents, worried about their children returning to schools that might not be safe. This is causing yet more worry for parents and students as information produced by the Department was inaccurate. I asked the Leader of the House of Commons to pass on these concerns to the Department for Education as this causes more confusion and chaos for people across the country. I welcome the minister’s response and assurance that the Secretary of State for Education will provide more information and clarity so that we can avoid any more stress to parents.

I was in Northern Ireland the week after the security and data protection breach at Police Service Northern Ireland and the fact that officers continued to go out and go about their duties is a testament to them and their service. However, it is unacceptable that the job they do remains a secret from many people, and that we somehow think this is normal in Northern Ireland 25 years after the peace process; it would not be normal in any other part of the United Kingdom, or in Ireland. I started this week in Parliament with a question to the Secretary of State about what the UK Government is doing with the co-guarantors of the peace process, the Irish Government, and those in the field more widely to deal with what is now clearly a crisis.

One of my roles as your MP is to scrutinise legislation. This week saw me doing just that with the Draft Human Medicines (Amendment Relating to Original Pack Dispensing) Regulations 2023 this week. On behalf of the Opposition I supported the regulations because they clearly represent the right thing to do for patients. Not only do the regulations improve patient safety, which must be our priority, but they increase flexibility for pharmacists and patients alike. The regulations alter the way that medicines are dispensed when they contain sodium valproate. Campaigners have long argued that it is key that medicines containing sodium valproate should be dispensed in the original manufacturer’s packaging to ensure that women and girls, particularly those of child-bearing age, always receive patient information about taking the medicine while pregnant.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee began hearing evidence on our new inquiry into Transforming the UK’s Evidence Base this week. The Committee wants to know a number of things including: how officials produce statistics and analysis; how demands for data are changing; and whether the privacy of citizens is being adequately protected as new and innovative sources become available. The MPs on the Committee heard from Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the National Statistician at the Office for National Statistics about how statistics are currently collected within the UK framework, where responsibility for data currently lies, and how the UK system compares with other countries.

I was pleased to be able to contribute to a debate on Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP). Early diagnosis is vital to manage the progression of FOP, and the average age of diagnosis is 8. However, there are earlier signs, such as turned under big toes, which with greater awareness could mean earlier diagnosis for children with FOP. Any time spent undiagnosed is time when trauma can occur unknowingly, not least in young children, who are not particularly robust or careful, whilst knowing the dangers of immunisations into the muscle at an early stage would be a positive step forward for those with FOP. Good care is vital for the management of FOP which requires staffing and resources. Research is also vital for improving our understanding of FOP and developing more effective treatments.

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.