Stem Cell Donors

In response to a campaign about stem cell donors, David said:

“With over 2,000 people a year across the UK requiring a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is important that more people are encouraged to register as potential stem cell donors. To this end, the joint action of Anthony Nolan and the NHS to increase the number of registered donors is vital.

Since 2015 the Government has allocated more than £20 million for both Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant to enable them to improve provision of stem cells for patients requiring a transplant. This continued public funding has enabled the establishment of a unified stem cell registry for the UK - the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry - streamlining the provision of stem cells for transplant.

As of 2017, the number of people registered as a potential donor across the UK stood at more than 1.4 million, almost double the 770,000 registered in 2010. This is significant progress but I also recognise the importance of registering more donors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in order to improve equity of access to the provision of stem cells for all patients. Since the Registry's creation in 2013, the number of BAME registered donors has more than doubled from 67,800 to 137,100. This increase includes 23,500 more Black donors and 32,500 more Asian donors.

In 2016, NHS Blood and Transplant began a partnership with Team Margot and launched a Golden Ticket campaign. This project involved the circulation of 35,000 Golden Tickets to existing BAME and mixed-race donors to encourage them to sign on to the stem cell donor register. I am confident that awareness campaigns such as this will continue to increase the number of registered stem cell donors from BAME backgrounds going forwards.”

More information about campaign can be found here

Brain Cancer

In response to the recent campaign on Brain Cancer, David said:

"I appreciate your concerns and it is encouraging that the Government recognises the need to increase research into brain tumours to achieve better outcomes for patients and families.

The Department of Health has recently established a Task and Finish Working Group on Brain Tumour Research. This group brings together clinicians, charities and officials to establish how the level and impact of brain tumour research can be furthered by working alongside funding partners. Under chairmanship of Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health, the group met for the third time in May 2017. The group aims to report back to Ministers regarding their findings.

The National Institute for Health Research is also supporting clinical trials to contribute to the development and delivery of brain tumour research. In 2015/16, these trials supported 1,061 patients over 37 brain cancer studies, identifying new research opportunities and areas of clinical need.

Survival rates for cancer are at a record high and we are on track to save an estimated 12,000 more lives a year for people diagnosed between 2011 and 2015. However, it is clear that more can still be done. I am therefore encouraged that the Government is working with clinical partners to deliver a new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. This will ensure that by 2020, everyone referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. This is supported by up to £300 million a year of investment by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity and a further £112 million to support the skilled personnel and advanced facilities at the forefront of clinical research."


Hospital Transport

In response to the campaign on hospital transport, David said:

"I understand that this issue is affecting ever more people as our society ages, and I would like to assure you that there are cross-governmental efforts being made to ensure elderly and frail people are able to gain access to suitable transport to hospitals. The Department of Health is aware of these issues, and runs a number of schemes to assist patients with non-emergency hospital transport.

Some people are eligible for non-emergency patient transport services. These services provide free transport to and from hospital for people whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey.

The Healthcare Travel Costs was set up to help those patients who require assistance with their travel costs to non-emergency medical appointments. Under the scheme, eligible patients (and sometimes carers) are reimbursed for costs incurred in travelling to appointments at non-primary medical and dental services. Patients who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit but are on a low income may be eligible for assistance through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

The Department of Transport manages a Community Minibus Fund in England and Wales. With a budget of £2 million, this fund is available for charities and community groups to provide minibus journeys for elderly residents, amongst others, to help them reach medical services and local amenities.

The NHS works closely with independent providers, who offer non-emergency patient transport throughout the country, and offer essential support to conventional ambulance services."  

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Pharmaceutical Drugs

In response to the campaign on the cost of pharmaceutical drugs to the NHS, David said:

"The Government is committed to paying a fair price for medicines used in the NHS. Where companies exploit the NHS by charging higher prices, this money cannot be spent elsewhere on patient care.

The Government has recently legislated to ensure that high prices of generic medicines can be better controlled. This action reflects the Government’s determination to ensure that no pharmaceutical company can charge unjustifiably high prices for medicines used in the NHS.

In 2016, the Secretary of State for Health asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urgently look into whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices. The CMA have fined companies that have been found to be  charging excessive prices and the Department of Health continues to work closely with the CMA on further investigations into the pharmaceutical sector.

The Government also works with the pharmaceutical industry on a range of issues, including the pricing of new medicines, through mechanisms such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This scheme is a voluntary agreement between the Government and pharmaceutical industry which controls the costs of branded medicines sold to the NHS.

The Government also commissioned the Accelerated Access Review which has set out a range of ways we can improve and speed up access to the latest treatments, but do so affordably for the NHS. You may also be interested to know that the Government is running a public consultation into medicines which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, in order to assess areas in which the NHS has been spending money on expensive, and clinically ineffective medicines.

Through measures such as this, the Government is taking action to ensure drugs represent value for money to the NHS and the UK taxpayer."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Breast Cancer

In response to the campaign on breast cancer, David said:

"It is important that every effort is made to continue to tackle and raise awareness of breast cancer, a disease which takes so many lives.

In 2015, Public Health England launched Be Clear on Cancer, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer in women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease.

Ministers are making great efforts to improve cancer services and ensure that the NHS provides some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020. This is part of the NHS’s ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020. Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support are working closely with NHS England on this programme to understand the best ways of developing and implementing cancer services.

These developments will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care. The NHS is implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce’s recommendation that all breast cancer patients shall receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer, and enable a quick and effective return to care."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion Buffer Zones

In response to the campaign on buffer zones outside abortion clinics, David said:

"I am aware of a number of recent protests outside some abortion clinics which is a very serious matter. This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. However, while I should make it clear from the outset that the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, I am pleased to say that the law does currently provide protection against such acts.

The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, makes it an offence to display threatening, or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not to do an act that they have a right to do.

The police also have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or to prevent local crime or disorder. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Motor Neurone Disease

In response to the campaign on motor neurone disease, David said:

"I understand that MND is a devastating disease which can be difficult to diagnose. In February 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines on the assessment and management of MND. This sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and recommends that robust pathways are in place to inform healthcare professionals about MND and local referral arrangements. NICE is clear that patients suspected of having MND should be referred without delay. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) 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.

All services for people with MND should be commissioned in line with NHS England’s neurosciences service specification which sets out what providers must have in place to deliver high quality specialised neurological care.

MND care is part of the NHS’s specialised services. The budget for these services has increased more rapidly than other parts of the NHS, to £16.6 billion for the year 2017/18.

The Government’s National Institute for Health Research has increased spending on neurological conditions from £29.9 million in 2010/11 to £46.7 million in 2014/15.

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."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

NHS Takeback Campaign

In response to the NHS Takeback campaign, David said:

"The NHS is a crucial part of the United Kingdom and the Government is dedicated to protecting it and its values. Ministers have guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free at the point of need, regardless of the ability to pay. The Government will not privatise the NHS.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. This will enable the NHS to implement its ‘Five Year Forward View’ plan in order to further improve health care in the future.

The focus throughout the NHS is to provide the highest quality of care to patients. This is why competition between public and private providers in the NHS acts only as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.

The use of private providers and the voluntary sector in the delivery of NHS services is not a new concept. The Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 introduced the independent sector and competition into the NHS. The use of private providers in the NHS represents just over seven pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just two and a half pence in the pound since 2010, and a slower rate of growth than under Labour."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Anthony Nolan 'Who Cares?' Campaign

In response to the Anthony Nolan 'Who Cares?' campaign, David said:

"It is highly important to increase the number of stem cell donors in the UK, so I understand and welcome the vital work undertaken by Anthony Nolan.

In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services. This is part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK.  This funding is being used to encourage young adults to become donors, as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.

It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010, the total number of registered donors in the United Kingdom was 770,000, increasing to over one million by the end of 2014. This enabled more UK patients to receive a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.

Aiding recovery should be a high priority. In February 2017, NHS England confirmed that it will fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer relapses following a first transplant. A large number of hospitals offer an Enhanced Recovery programme for those who have received major surgery, helping patients enjoy a quick and successful recovery."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

In response to the campaign on Alzheimer's, David said:

"Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This plan will provide more funding for dementia care, support and research, whilst also increasing public awareness.

In March 2016, the Government published an Implementation Plan to support the 2020 Challenge which has been produced with key partners across the health and care sectors. Alongside this, a joint declaration has been published setting out an ambition to improve the quality of post-diagnostic care.

Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Additionally, over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training.

Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia and the Government has doubled research spending on dementia. This will be maintained to total over £300 million by 2020, with the UK’s first ever Dementia Research Institute receiving £150 million.

I believe it is important to increase public awareness of dementia and I am encouraged that there are over 1.7 million Dementia Friends and 175 Dementia Friendly Communities in England."

More details about the Government's plans to tackle dementia and Alzheimer's disease can be found here.

Bowel Cancer

In response to the campaign on bowel cancer, David said:

"Over eight in ten cases of bowel cancer occur in the over 60s and I agree that early diagnosis is key.

Under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, people aged 60-74 years old are sent a home testing kit every two years. Those aged above the eligible age limit are also able to self-refer for screening. As part of the programme, a new test is being introduced which is easier to complete and it is hoped that 200,000 more people per year will take up the opportunity to be screened.  An additional one-off bowel scope screening test is also being introduced for those aged 55 years old. 

All hospital trusts are able to offer screening for patients if clinically appropriate. New cancer referral guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published in June 2015 state that GPs should refer patients for testing in hospital if they present with relevant symptoms at relevant ages. 

Cancer survival rates in the UK have never been higher, however, I am aware that there is still more to be done. The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. By 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.

The £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund has helped over 95,000 people and I continue to support the Government’s commitment to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion in Northern Ireland

In response to the campaign on abortion in Northern Ireland, David said:

"I recognise that this is a very delicate and sensitive issue. Abortion access is the topic of contentious and emotive debate. For this reason all MPs are free to vote with their conscience on abortion matters, rather in line with their parties, and I support this convention wholeheartedly. The Government wishes to see safe abortion services provided within the law to women who need them.

The provision of abortions is a devolved issue. Devolved NHS authorities are responsible for providing healthcare to those resident in their regions.

However, following a recent Supreme Court judgement, which outlined the law surrounding the provision of abortions to Northern Irish women in England, the Government has announced that payment for abortions for Northern Irish women in the NHS will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding.

This development does not alter the fact that the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue, and the responsibility of politicians in Northern Ireland. The funding of NHS abortion services for Northern Irish women by the Government Equalities Office ensures these women safe access to legal abortions in England, without compromising the devolution of NHS services in the UK.

In response to the case of the mother being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences against the Person Act in Northern Ireland, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion on Demand

In response to the campaign on abortion on demand, David said:

"I understand what an important issue abortion is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged.  Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament.  It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.  Whenever this issue has come before Parliament I have consistently voted for stricter laws on abortion.  

I am aware that an update to the procedures that detail the conditions that independent sector abortion clinics must adhere to was published in 2014, to take into account a number of regulatory changes and to bring the requirements in line with current policies and guidance.

The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health.   Full details can be found online here:

The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act.  The Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion."