Karin Smyth MP gives a speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate on health inequalities and a lack of accountability across the NHS.

In her speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Karin highlighted the need for South Bristol Community Hospital to be given more support in order to tackle major health inequalities in the area. She also described how the Government’s NHS transformation plans have created confusion for NHS workers and patients alike. Karin argued there needs to be more accountability and greater financial transparency throughout the NHS which would make it possible for MP’s to help ensure their constituents hard earned tax is being fairly and efficiently allocated to health services locally: “Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.”



Karin writes about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people.

Karin Smyth MP has just published an article for the Health Service Journal about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people following the Government’s disastrous Health & Social Care Act. You can read it here…

The Kings Fund’s Chris Ham recently wrote about tighter working at the top of the NHS, reducing the number of commissioning bodies and much closer working between the NHS and local authorities. He argues this would simplify a complex system and could release resources. His challenge to politicians is to let that happen without a top-down reorganisation but with some legislation.

The challenge is likely to fall on deaf ears even though just about everyone accepts that the Health & Social Care Act was a disaster. The government has no appetite and little time for non-Brexit enabling legislation and they control the legislative timetable.

My own view is that we desperately need more than adjusting the superstructures. We are at a critical point as we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS as we come to the end of the era of markets and competition exemplified by the disaster of the Health and Social Care Act. To make our whole care system better and to ensure our NHS thrives for the next 70 years the principle of accountability has to be put centre stage.

My pre-MP professional career in the NHS, combined with years of activity in the Labour Party dealing with local councils, led to concerns about the lack of accountability within the NHS. This background showed me that better accountability is a key driver of change and improvement as well as being necessary in a functioning democracy.

The complex fragmentation of the NHS in recent years has muddied things when it comes to accountability. There are literally hundreds of bodies involved. The 200-plus Clinical Commissioning Groups are in effect private members’ clubs.

And of the 250-plus NHS bodies which provide services, some still have fully appointed boards and are controlled directly. Foundation Trusts have a pseudo-membership structure with elected Governors but the model hasn’t done much for public and patient involvement.

And then we have the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) with no legal basis, a leadership that is unelected and unaccountable and operating mostly in secret.

All these bodies spend taxpayers’ money and it is little wonder the taxpayer is both mystified and suspicious as to how they decide what to do with that money.

The current Secretary of State operates in his role as if he’s some sort of Chief Patient Representative, with no active role in leading and shaping any plans, services or systems.

Local MPs are expected by constituents to stand up for local services ensuring they have enough resources, and to be able to make a difference when things go wrong; but the reality is that MPs have been restricted to an annual vote, in Parliament, on the national plan via the Mandate and the budget. We have no role locally in how the Mandate is delivered or on the alignment of the voted national budget with local delivery. And critically neither do local people.

MPs are pivotal: they’re the point where national policy meets local reality. As well as bringing our local experience to Parliament MPs need be made accountable for our decisions in Parliament. They should not be let off the hook for decisions made in Parliament which impact locally.

MPs should be demanding a local role to be able to follow the money – from our vote in Parliament to the GP surgery door, and back again. Local people should have a way of recognising or linking the taxes they pay to the service they get or indeed do not get.

It’s no secret that the money the NHS is allocated is insufficient to do all that’s promised in the NHS Constitution, to the quality that’s rightly expected. Even Tory MPs are being confronted by the reality of GP list closures, trolley waits, too few mental health beds and delayed dates for operations. And these MPs themselves are being forced to come to terms with the reality of being bounced around the system, as they try to help constituents, trying to understand just who is in charge.

Chris Ham’s proposals have some potential for short term benefits but unless we sort out both national and local accountability we won’t be able to sort the long term. On behalf of our constituents we should be putting the public centre stage, considering how to actively improve the NHS and understanding what the money can deliver. We have to give patients and public genuine influence over decisions affecting the care they, their families and their communities receive and the responsibility that goes with that influence.

Publish everything. Let voters follow their taxpayers’ pound all the way to the services they receive. Real comparisons could be made with other areas which may have better outcomes, have implemented better pathways or achieved lower costs. This allows an informed voice into the decision-making process, also giving a proper channel through their elected representatives.

Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.

And we should all want that.

Karin Smyth responds to news that Bristol South remains bottom of the table when it comes to university attendance among 18-year-olds

The latest UCAS figures reveal that Bristol South still has the lowest percentage of 18-year-olds going on to higher education out of every area of England, in what MP Karin Smyth calls ‘very disappointing’.

The 2017 End of Cycle report shows that just 16% of 18-year-olds in Bristol South are entering higher education – the average for the UK as a whole is almost 42%.
Full figures available here: UCAS Report

Karin says: “It is very disappointing to see Bristol South bottom of the list again, with so few school leavers going to university.

“While progress has been made, with Bristol South seeing the biggest rise in the number of young people going into higher education compared with a decade ago, to remain bottom of the list shows that there is still a long way to go.

“In a big prosperous city such as Bristol, with two internationally-recognised universities as well as Learning City status, it’s hard to see so many young people potentially being left behind – not sharing in that prosperity.

“I will continue to work with schools, families and universities to improve opportunities for young people in Bristol South. This statistic also reinforces the need for other avenues of post-16 training in Bristol to enable young people to go on to secure skilled work.

“We must remember that university isn’t for everyone and I have been – and will continue -working relentlessly to improve quality apprenticeship opportunities in Bristol South.”

Karin Smyth, MP talking in the House of Commons on the Autumn 2017 budget

I spoke in the House of Commons yesterday in response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget. I emphasised my dismay at the Government’s lack of any meaningful financial support for Bristol South to help us tackle the crisis facing our public services – from health and social care, training opportunities for young people to help them get decent jobs, and affordable homes.

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth responds to 2017 Autumn Budget

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond today (Nov 22) revealed his Autumn Budget 2017.
He spoke of a ‘costed and inclusive’ budget with talk of building homes and ‘helping families to cope with the cost of living’ before announcing investment priorities which included funding for research and development for driverless cars.
Bristol South MP Karin Smyth says the budget does little to help the thousands of Bristol South residents in low-paid jobs who are struggling to make ends meet or find a new home.
Speaking after the Budget was revealed in the House of Commons, Karin said: “Bristol South desperately needs more affordable housing and I want to see this teamed up with a new construction centre attached to the local college to provide decent job prospects for local people.
“I’ve long been a supporter of apprenticeships here in Bristol South and was disappointed to see little more than a passing mention on apprenticeships. This, despite a 61% drop in numbers since the levy was announced and despite high drop-out rates among apprentices who are struggling to cope with living and transport costs. More needs to be done to address this.
“The Chancellor claimed that ‘work always pays’ but this is simply not the case. On paper, unemployment may be low here in Bristol South but this does not mean that people are better off. Many jobs remain insecure, temporary and poorly paid and with rents remaining prohibitively high and house price inflation at 14% in Bristol South, owning your own home remains is more than a dream for most.”
Last month, Karin and her fellow Bristol MPs called for a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit until the core problems could be addressed.
“Reducing the length of the wait for Universal Credit puts a sticking plaster on the problem but it doesn’t go far enough” said Karin. Many applicants or those low-earning self-employed workers will be hundreds of pounds a year worse off with Universal Credit. This will hit working mums particularly hard. One in four children is already living in poverty in Bristol South and Universal Credit will undoubtedly see this figure rise. Karin will be continuing her work on boosting apprenticeships in South Bristol, pushing for a halt on Universal Credit until the core problems can be addressed and fighting for affordable housing and rents for residents.

MP and Apprenticeships Minister agree joint working

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth met recently-appointed Apprenticeships Minister Rt Hon Anne Milton MP in Westminster to discuss joint working on better involving parents and small businesses in promoting apprenticeships in her constituency.

“Bristol South sends fewer young people to university than any other UK Parliamentary constituency,” says the Labour MP. “It means apprenticeships are especially valuable for our young people as they provide an opportunity of paid work and training that can open more doors in future.

“I support the government’s drive to improve apprenticeship opportunities for people I represent, and I was pleased to meet the Minister to discuss joint working to achieve this.”

She outlined to the Minister that 80 per cent of apprentices in south Bristol are in retail, health & social care and business administration – which lead to lower wages than other types of apprenticeships.

“We discussed the need to boost local opportunities for young people to take up schemes that lead to higher wages, such as engineering, construction and IT.

“I explained to the Minister the importance of bringing a Construction Training Centre to my constituency, at the site of the City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.

Parent and carer support

“The Department for Education uses a number of means to explain to young people the value of an apprenticeship and at our meeting we agreed that parents have a key role in promoting apprenticeships to young people.

“Parents and carers want to support young people but are rarely equipped or informed about those options. I believe we need much better communications and support to parents and will be looking to develop this locally in the next year.”

The meeting also covered the role of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in improving apprenticeship opportunities in Bristol South.

Karin Smyth adds: “My constituency has hardly any large employers. 99.6% of business in Bristol South employ fewer than 250 people, 88% employ fewer than eight.

“SMEs in my constituency are pivotal to the success of future apprenticeships – both in helping young people find out about apprenticeships, and in supporting them through their programme.

“I look forward to working with the Minister, and with parents, SMEs and others, to help ensure local young people are able to make the most of the opportunities available in future.”

Senior Communications Officer Vacancy

A vacancy has arisen for a Senior Communications Officer in Karin’s team.

Based in Bristol for 15 hours (2 days) per week, communicating with all media, managing the website, using social media and researching local, regional and national issues to support Karin’s work. The role entails analysing, evaluating and interpreting data to ensure the MP is accurately informed on key issues and is aware of trends, providing briefings for the MP and responding to routine correspondence and enquiries from constituents, the media, lobbyists and pressure groups.

Job Title:                 Senior Communications Officer

Salary Range:         £28,000 – £32,000 (pro rata) depending on experience

Location:                 Bristol

Hours:                    15 hours / 2 days per week (flexible)

Closing date:           Monday 23 October 2017

Interview date:        Friday 27 October 2017


Key Responsibilities:

  • monitor media coverage, liaise with media, prepare press releases as required (on constituency, non-party political matters)
  • proactive and reactive communications with all media
  • manage the MP’s website contents
  • publicise the MP’s parliamentary activity on social media
  • follow up on social media queries and comments
  • research local, regional and national issues to support the MP’s work
  • analyse, evaluate and interpret data to ensure the MP is accurately informed on key issues and is aware of trends
  • develop knowledge in specialist areas
  • provide briefings for the MP
  • respond to routine correspondence and enquiries from constituents, the media, lobbyists and pressure groups
  • liaise with government agencies, voluntary sector and others to resolve constituency matters
  • ensure records are kept and information managed confidentially and in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.


Person Specification:

  • degree educated, or equivalent relevant experience
  • experience of working with print, broadcast and electronic media in a role such as journalist or press officer
  • Strong news sense and a good knowledge of the needs of local and national media
  • able to influence people and build long-lasting, positive relationships
  • able to take responsibility for tasks and act on own initiative
  • excellent time management skills and the ability to meet tight deadlines
  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • able to research issues and analyse data
  • able to work with diplomacy, discretion and confidentiality
  • excellent attention to detail and the capacity to work under pressure
  • an interest in politics, social justice and current affairs
  • in sympathy with the aims and values of the Labour Party.


If you would like to discuss the role with Karin please call 0117 953 3575.


If you are interested in applying please send a CV and covering letter setting out your experience to karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk.


MP comments on Home Office air weapon review

Commenting on a Home Office statement today (10 October) confirming a government review of the regulation of air weapons Karin Smyth MP (Bristol South), who called the debate that led to the announcement, said:

“This review is an important step forward and provides an opportunity to improve the safety and security of these weapons so we avoid further tragedies of the type that devastated the Studley family.

“It is important that all those who want to see changes – to protect people and animals – voice their views because this is the start of a process, not the end. The hard work begins now.”

Government air gun review after MP’s Hartcliffe toddler shooting debate

Ministers are to review regulations governing the safety of air weapons after a Bristol MP called a Parliamentary debate on the issue following the shooting of a toddler in Hartcliffe last summer.

Pointing out that the incident, which saw 18 month-old Harry Studley shot in the head and critically injured, was sadly not an isolated incident, Karin Smyth (Bristol South) told the Commons: “Too many lives have been unnecessarily lost and too many serious injuries have been inflicted upon innocent civilians. Sadly, a large proportion of these victims are children and young people. We cannot ignore the issue and we need to do something about it.”

Watch the debate in full at the foot of this page

Responding for the government, Home Office Minister Nick Hurd told the Labour MP of his “intention to review the regulation of air weapons in England and Wales.” He said: “I think that this is an appropriate time to take stock of the regulatory position and assess whether the current controls, which are already strong, continue to be appropriate and effective.”

Karin Smyth highlighted recent law changes in Scotland: “Following a series of tragic incidents involving air weapons, the Scottish Government acted to address the problem. Under the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, it has been an offence since the start of this year to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate.

“It is a condition of that licence that weapons are securely stored in order that access and possession cannot be gained by a person who is not authorised.”

Criminal convictions north of the border must be disclosed as part of the license application process, and the police there must be satisfied that the applicant can possess an air weapon “without danger to the public safety or to the peace” before issuing an air weapon certificate.

Karin Smyth pointed out: “In the run-up to the change in the law, 20,000 air weapons were surrendered to the authorities in Scotland and destroyed—20,000 fewer potentially lethal weapons were on the streets, and I think the House will agree that that makes Scotland safer.

“Most of the law in England and Wales on air weapons dates from the 1960s and it is time properly to re-examine the legislation to see whether it is fit for the 21st century. When an issue has such a devastating effect on the lives of families with such regularity, I would expect the Government to be considering such action already.

“At the very least I would expect a detailed consideration of licensing in the light of the change to the law in Scotland; of whether the fitting of trigger locks should be mandatory for all new air weapons sold; and of whether the reasonable precautions requirement on all airgun owners for the safe storage of air weapons and ammunition is adequate.

“I want children and young people in my constituency to be protected from future tragedies like those that have been all too common in recent years.

“Surely Bristol South’s children deserve the same protection as children living in Scotland.”

Nick Hurd said: “I intend to look carefully at the existing controls on air weapons, including how best to ensure that such weapons are stored safely and securely, so that they do not get into the hands of children. The hon. Member for Bristol South suggested that features such as trigger locks should be used, or that air weapons should be required to be stored in a locked cabinet. Those issues need to be looked at in some detail.

“As the hon. Lady rightly pointed out, the recent decision by the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime for lower-powered air weapons has quite rightly led to a renewed focus on the regulatory position in England and Wales.”

He also outlined a series of measures aimed at improving guidance for owners of air weapons to help secure and handle them safely.

To read the debate in full use this link

You can watch the debate in full below:

Young people & parent input sought to boost local apprenticeships

Young people, parents and carers are being asked by Karin Smyth MP to help shape future apprenticeship provision across south Bristol by sharing their experiences and ideas.

Speaking at Labour Party Conference the Bristol South MP outlined the challenges facing her constituency if forthcoming opportunities are to be maximised by young people living across the area. She highlighted
two key elements of work that is needed in Bristol South: the role of small and medium sized enterprises – and the role of parents & carers.

A transcript of a speech made by the MP to the Dods Apprenticeships Forum Reception is included below.


“I come from a Parliamentary constituency, Bristol South, that sends fewer young people to university than any other in the UK. So apprenticeships are particularly valuable for young people in Bristol South as they offer a chance of decent work and a better share in our city’s prosperity.

But on apprenticeships too we face a number of challenges locally – for example that 80 per cent of apprentices in south Bristol are in retail, health & social care, and business administration – which lead to lower wages than other types.

I want to focus on two elements of the work that I believe is needed in Bristol South to improve things and maximise apprenticeship opportunities: the role of small and medium sized enterprises – and the role of parents & carers. Future apprenticeships policy will only be successful in Bristol South if these groups are better engaged and involved at an early stage.


Bristol South has hardly any large employers. 99.6% of business in Bristol South employ fewer than 250 people, 88% employ fewer than eight. So it’s clear that SMEs in my constituency are pivotal to the success of future apprenticeships – both in helping young people find out about apprenticeships, and in supporting them through their programme.

The funding system for apprenticeships for SMEs is complex and though they are willing (and many do) it is difficult for busy people running SMEs to keep up with national system changes that are introduced.


When I speak with young people on apprenticeships they are hugely positive about the experience but the route is usually through a small local business known to family members or by them just accessing websites and navigating things for themselves. I’m not going to knock those routes, but we are letting down thousands of youngsters who could benefit from greater support, as well as losing key skills our economy needs.

Careers advice in Bristol South is patchy at best. Schools want to keep hold of post-16 students and are rarely resourced to support other options than A levels.

With a plethora of options at 16 and a changing workplace as well the unknown looming impact of Brexit, parents worry about and want to support our youngsters but are rarely equipped or informed about those options. I believe we need much better communications and support to parents and will be looking to develop this locally in the next year. I’ll be interested to hear colleagues’ thoughts this evening, and as we move forward.

And I want to hear the views of young people, parents and carers living in south Bristol: those who’ve been through the system, those currently going through it, and those with youngsters who’ll soon be making decisions about their future options.

So… we are all in agreement that apprenticeships are vital…. But we need to make it easy for the youngsters to find a way into the system. Nationally lots of work has been done to help young people and parents navigate the university entry system. We need the same for apprenticeships.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee during the last Parliament, I suggested the idea of a UCAS type system for apprenticeships. This is something the government is considering and Labour needs to keep pushing this.

What next?

We have a skills gap, and full employment in Bristol. There are major building programmes afoot in our city and just beyond – just down the M5 we have Hinckley C about to be built, for example.

Our young people need to be able to take advantage of the opportunities these and other major projects bring. I spoke earlier about wage differentials, and the differentials for construction trades are good. So I am supporting the need to bring a Construction Training Centre to Bristol South, at the site of the City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.

This will help train local young people in construction and engineering to enable them to take advantage of the best quality opportunities, and I look forward to helping bring this to reality in the months ahead.

Thank you.”