In Parliament, I attended an event organised by the charity ‘Cardiac Risk in the Young’ (CRY) to lend my support to their ongoing campaign for a national strategy for the prevention of young sudden cardiac death.
It often surprises people that every week, 12 apparently fit and healthy, young (aged 35 and under) people in the UK die suddenly from an undiagnosed heart defect. In 80% of these cases, there will have been no signs or symptoms until it is too late, which is why CRY believes screening is so vitally important.
Any person aged 14-35 can go to www.testmyheart.org.uk to book an appointment for a free heart screening which includes an ECG. CRY also provides the follow up ultrasound test on the same day. CRY now tests around 30,000 young people each year and well over 190,000 since the screening programme was launched in 1995. The government must create a national strategy to prevent the hundreds of deaths of young people each year from these undiagnosed cardiac conditions.
I met with researchers from The University of Manchester to discuss the ‘Britain Breathing’ app. The app allows users to record their experiences of seasonal allergies and asthma on their smartphones and tablets as well as showing roughly where they are in the country so that researchers can investigate what factors may be causing their symptoms.
Britain Breathing is an example of the new trend towards ‘citizen science’, where members of the public provide data to help researchers to make new breakthroughs in medical and scientific research. I am happy to support the work of The University of Manchester and I encourage as many people as possible here in Rochdale to become ‘citizen scientists’ by downloading the Britain Breathing app and making their own contributions to this remarkable initiative.
More information on Britain Breathing can be found on the www.britainbreathing.org website.
At the weekend it was great to meet with Pastor Oginni and the people of his church in Rochdale. I attended a wonderful, uplifting service at their place of worship, Victory House.
Parliament celebrated the UK’s second ever ‘Day of the Single Parent’ which was attended by dozens of organisations that work on single parent issues across our communities. The day was created to honour and recognise the hard work and devotion of single parenting. I grew up in a single parent household, after my father passed away, so I personally appreciate the sacrifices single parents make and have enormous respect for people like my mother who did this alone.
In Parliament, we also celebrated the National School Breakfast Programme, it is the largest school breakfast programme that has ever been provided in England – reaching over 1,775 schools and more than 250,000 children. Four schools run the programme in Rochdale.
We know that children learn better on a full stomach and that’s why it’s so important that all children, no matter what background, deserve a nutritious breakfast to start the day to give them an equal chance to learn and thrive at school. I joined the event to find out what more we can do to help children across Rochdale.
I met with Jonathan Powell, someone I have worked with in the past and he was the Chief of Staff to Tony Blair back in 1997 – 2007. He has worked on conflict resolution across the world – from Yemen, Colombia, Syria and in the Northern Ireland Peace Process as Chief British Negotiator. I spent many years of my own working life involved in conflict resolution, so for me this was a very important meeting.
It was great to see thousands of climate change activists visit Parliament to call for urgent action on the environmental crisis. It was even better to see local people from Rochdale attend, including Councillor Wendy Cocks and Vicar of St Chads Church, Mark Coleman. Unfortunately, the UK is not keeping up with the pace required to prevent catastrophic changes to our environment.
The ‘Time is Now’ mass lobby therefore demanded that MPs support the end of the UK’s contribution to climate change. We must keep up the momentum on this huge issue and it was so encouraging to see people from across the country uniting to make sure their collective voice is heard.
As in most years, I was determined to speak on Action Mesothelioma Day, where doves were released to remember those who have died of an asbestos related disease. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of some of the body’s organs. It’s usually linked to inhaling asbestos fibres. People who have worked in an asbestos plant are particularly susceptible, but it can also affect their family members as the fibres can linger on clothing.
This issue is particularly important in Rochdale as the legacy of the Turner Brothers Asbestos factory continues to cause worry for local residents about the amount of asbestos left on the now disused site.
I am therefore writing to the Health and Safety Executive along with the Secretary of State for the DWP to ensure that the current owners of the old Turners site take responsibility to secure the site and put all relevant information into the public domain.
More than 2,600 people are diagnosed with Mesothelioma each year in the UK. The event in Manchester called for justice for all asbestos victims, and families from Rochdale were represented, to call for the removal of asbestos from our schools, workplaces, and homes.
It was great to join the hundreds of young people and carers at Oulder Hill’s ‘Our Big Day’. This was an inspirational mini-festival, celebrating the achievements of the borough’s cared for children. Children were nominated in categories including ‘Being an Outstanding Role Model’ and ‘Caring for Others’ and were awarded with certificates and goody-bags. The children and young people at the event made an important point that children are taken in care for a multitude of reasons and lead perfectly normal lives and have the same hopes and dreams as any other child.
It was a great day in the sunshine to celebrate some amazing children and the families who have taken on the responsibility to take care of them.
I also joined the Madonna del Rosario Procession, which has been running since 1890. In the late 1800s there was an influx of Italian immigrants to the mills in Rochdale and Ancoats near Manchester city centre, which became known as Little Italy. Families arrived from Italy to seek work in Greater Manchester’s booming cotton mills and industry. This procession therefore celebrates the Italian community and heritage in Greater Manchester.
I backed a campaign to end the privatisation of England’s water. This was launched in the same week that marked the 30th anniversary of water privatisation in England and Wales, and after recent revelations that the CEOs of private water companies have earnt £70 million in salary, bonuses, and other remuneration in the past six years.
It is estimated that bringing water back into public ownership could save ordinary people around £100 a year. It would also see profits reinvested into the service, rather than going into the pockets of shareholders, which I am wholly committed to.
Cancer Research held a roadshow in Parliament, calling for the new Prime Minister to stand shoulder to shoulder with the NHS against cancer, by committing to a fully-funded plan for the cancer workforce that will address the shortages in our NHS right now, as well as planning for the future with cancer patients at its heart. Early detection saves lives, so it was great to meet the roadshow team at Cancer Research and learn more about spotting cancer early, as well as the vital work being done to beat the disease. The government has made a commitment to diagnose 75% of cancer cases in England at stage one or stage two by 2028.
However, to reach this target the NHS needs a long-term plan for the cancer workforce who deliver the crucial cancer tests and treatments people need. Currently there are 1,200 cancer cases across Rochdale per year. Our next Prime Minister needs to ensure that improving survival from cancer in the UK is at the top end of their to do list.
I also met with new charity, Prost8, which is working to increase awareness of, and raise funds for the treatment of prostate cancer. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives. Prost8 wants to increase the awareness and prevalence of non-invasive, or minimally invasive treatments.
This year, roughly 8,000 men with early forms of the cancer will be treated using techniques which will significantly impact their lifestyle. Prost8 champions the use of treatment methods such as High Intensity Focal Ultrasound. While it is already available to patients using the NHS, it is only accessed by 1% of sufferers, with the vast majority not knowing it exists.
The charity is now fundraising so that they can provide each of the UK cancer care regions with the necessary equipment to perform these alternative treatments.
Finally, local Headteacher Sarah Isberg and Deputy Headteacher Nicola Howard from Kentmere Academy visited me in Parliament when collecting their National Pearson Teaching award.
A great honour for a great school, recognising the achievements of both staff and students – well done Kentmere!