Still fighting for Medical Cannabis, reflecting on World Teachers Day, & getting more women into sport - Weekly update 09/10/2020
It's been another busy week here in Gower and Westminster. I was pleased to be called to ask the English Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, a question in this week’s Health Questions. It’s come to light that the Northern Ireland authorities have taken unprecedented action and have committed to paying the private prescriptions for severely ill children in Northern Ireland who need medical cannabis. I have been campaigning on this issue for a long time, and I asked the Secretary of State if he would finally do the right thing and follow the Northern Irish example and support severely ill children with intractable epilepsy. He refused to answer my yes or no question, instead praising significant progress made and promising to follow the clinical advice. The clinical advice is clear: where no other treatments have been found to be effective, medical cannabis can be prescribed.
I was also pleased to join other Catch Up With Cancer campaigners on a call with Matt Hancock to discuss a national cancer recovery plan. Cancer waiting lists and in NHS England, waiting lists are at the highest level since records began. We need the UK Government to ensure that cancer specialist health care workers receive adequate testing to ensure Covid-protected safe spaces so that cancer diagnoses and care can continue throughout the winter and ensure that everyone with a diagnosis is given the best chance of survival. The pandemic has been a worrying and uncertain time for everyone, but for those awaiting cancer treatment there is the added fear of losing precious time. Cancer hasn’t gone away during this pandemic and we need to ensure that our capabilities for treating cancer are not lost either.
This week we had the utterly ridiculous suggestion by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, that those people employed in the creative industries who are currently unable to work should just find alternative jobs. According to one of the Government’s own press releases from earlier this year, the UK’s creative industries contribute (in normal times) almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour. The sector was growing more than 5 times faster than the national economy before the pandemic hit. It was incredibly moving to see the 400 musicians who assembled in Parliament Square (socially distanced, of course) to protest against the UK Government’s lack of support in the way they know how – by performing one of Gustav Holst’s best known pieces, Mars from his Planets Suite. Holst was an English composer and it is terribly saddening to think of all the talent and hours of enjoyment that could be lost from the UK Government’s short-sightedness.
The Welsh Affairs Committee met this Thursday to discuss the implications of Brexit for Welsh trade, particularly in the areas of pharmaceuticals, the automotive industry, and the steel industry. I’ve noticed over the last few years an issue with the drugs available in pharmacies, particularly HRT. It is very important that we tackle the lack of availability of drugs, especially with the impact of leaving the EU. The UK Government must ensure that the supply of vital drugs, as well as other vital products for trade, is not disrupted by Brexit and that safeguards are put in place to ensure stocks remain able to cope with demand.
Women in Sport are running a fantastic initiative this month called #TimeTogether to get mums and daughters to find new, fun, and active ways to spend time together. Research has shown that only 42% of teenage girls meet physical activity guidelines and that mums are often reluctant to allocate time for themselves to be active as they are busy spending time looking after others. They also found that teenage girls cherish and value time spent alone with their mum and so Time Together have put together 4 weeks of ideas of ways to spend time more actively enjoying that important relationship. Take a look at their website and social media for lots of great ideas and go and have some fun!
On Monday we marked World Teachers’ Day. As a former teacher myself, I know how hard the job is in normal times, trying to plan and prepare for lessons, ensure that every student is given the help they need to succeed, deal with behaviour, and try to keep your head above the ever-growing pile of marking and paperwork! It’s a wonderful job – watching children develop is a joy, but it can be extremely challenging. I want to thank all the wonderful teachers who have worked so hard to ensure that students can go back into Covid-secure classrooms and maintain as much normality as possible. The end of last year was completely unprecedented and the beginning of this year is no less strange. Good luck to all teachers for the academic year and I hope you still find the moments of laughter, joy, and bewilderment that reminds every teacher why they do this job!
This Saturday is World Mental Health Day and this year’s is more important than ever. According to Mind charity’s research, more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said that their mental health had got worse over lockdown. Some may have developed new mental health problems and others had their existing mental health problems exacerbated. We must now get rid of the idea that mental ill-health is somehow a weakness and that it is something to be ashamed of. In the same way that we need to eat well and exercise to keep our physical health good, we need to look after our minds. For some that mean a jog, or a yoga class, or an hour with a book in a corner somewhere. Others might need more help and that might mean reaching out to others. Mind mental health charity have lots of information about the support available on their website, or you can visit your GP. It’s important that we look after ourselves – body and mind.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Keep well and remember – and remember - observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!