Basingstoke residents have recently written to me on the subject of assisted suicide.
I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on both sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, any change in the law must be for MPs to consider as a matter of individual conscience, rather than a decision for Government. This is a convention which I support wholeheartedly.
Parliament has debated this issue on several occasions and the most recent debate on specific legislative proposals was in the House of Commons on 11 September 2015, when the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill had its Second Reading. The Bill was rejected by 330 votes to 118.
I appreciate how strongly constituents feel about this subject and I would like to thank all who have for taken the time to write to me with their views.
I will continue to follow developments carefully, and I know that the Ministers responsible for this policy area will do likewise.
A number of Basingstoke residents have been in contact regarding cancer treatment during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
I can certainly appreciate the points raised in the correspondence and I have been in contact with the Chief Executive of Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital to ask for an update on cancer services in Basingstoke.
I am pleased to let you know that despite significant challenges presented by outbreak of Covid 19 all cancer services have continued to run and the Hospital have not stood down any cancer diagnostics or treatments.
Our local hospital’s staff are working tirelessly to ensure patients continue to receive the best care with staff helping out with extra shifts and working in different departments to support other teams.
Nationally, as a result of the pandemic where changes to treatment protocol were made, it was to in full consultation with patients, to ensure that they fully understood the reasoning behind any changes made in line with guidance from clinical experts, which included patient safety.
I know that continuation of cancer services is absolutely vital in many cases, warmly welcome that restarting cancer care in a safe manner has been a priority for the NHS and for the Government. Due to COVID-19, the 21 cancer alliances in England have established hubs to ensure dedicated cancer care away from hospitals dealing with the virus.
The NHS is continues to be very much there for anyone who needs it so please do continue to access care if you, your family or friends need it.
I understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on all sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government rightly adopts a neutral stance on abortion, allowing Conservative MPs to vote freely according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This is a convention which I support wholeheartedly.
I understand that, in the last ten years, the body of knowledge relating to foetal sentience has been expanding, such that in 2019 the NHS recommended pain relief for foetuses undergoing surgery for spina bifida from 20 weeks onwards. I also know that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has not recommended the use of analgesia or anaesthesia for the foetus in utero, including for abortions. There is a wide range of guidance and research in this area, reaching a wide range of recommendations and conclusions, and I will of course work to ensure that Government and NHS guidance responds to the latest scientific information.
I believe it is vital that, on a matter this sensitive and important, the broadest possible scope of scientific research is examined, informing a comprehensive debate. I would encourage all my colleagues across the House and on all sides of the discussion to engage in this debate.
Motor Neurone Disease MND
Ensuring early diagnosis and support for those living with MND remains a key priority of the NHS. With early diagnosis key to treating the symptoms of MND, I am glad that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines for clinicians on the assessment and management of MND. These set out the signs and symptoms of the disease, and recommend that patients suspected of having MND should be referred without delay. The Royal College of GPs and the MND Association have also worked together to produce a ‘Red Flag Tool’ which sets out key signs of MND to help GPs to identify suspected cases and ensure prompt referral.
I also recognise the valuable contribution made by carers of people with MND, many of whom spend a significant proportion of their life providing support to family members, friends and neighbours. I agree that carers must receive the right support to help them carry out their caring roles and a new cross-Government National Carers Strategy is being introduced to look at what more can be done to support existing and future carers.
Coronavirus: In addition to the 1.5 million people identified in England with conditions centrally identified, GPs identified other patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
This means that if someone with MND is identified by GP to be clinically extremely vulnerable they will be added to the list, and will be able to access the cross-government support package.
Given the range of disease progression and severity of symptoms in people with MND, their blanket inclusion in the clinical extremely vulnerable group would not be appropriate. This is true for those at both the mildest end of symptoms, and those in the last few months of life.
If you believe that you should be included in the extremely vulnerable group, you are advised to contact your GP.
Postcode lottery: In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan was launched, including a commitment to reduce health inequalities. To support local planning and ensure national programmes are focused on health inequality reduction, the NHS will set out specific, measurable goals for narrowing inequalities, including these relating to poverty, through the service improvements set out in the Long Term Plan.
Research: I understand that University of Edinburgh research is still in early stages, it is a most welcome step forward, and I will certainly follow this closely.
Almost £288 million has been spent on research into neurological conditions, including MND, in the past decade through the publicly-funded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). With the NIHR’s annual spending on neurological conditions up by more than £22 million in that period,