Author Archives: Paul Burstow MP

Paul Burstow writes: Standardised tobacco packaging – a step in the right direction

cigaretteAs Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on smoking and health, I welcome the publication of Sir Cyril Chantler’s review of the public health case for introducing standardised packaging for tobacco products.

The Review is a thorough assessment of the public health evidence, particularly as it relates to marketing smoking to young people. One of the key objectives of the all party group is to help prevent the next generation of children and young people from taking up the habit.

photo by: SuperFantastic
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Paul Burstow writes… Realising the potential of an ageing society

Senior citizens dancing pensioners Some rights reserved by StevenM_61Last summer, Nick Clegg asked me to chair a working group looking at the issues of an ageing society and how Government should respond.

The UK population is living longer and today there are more people over the age of 65 in the UK than there are children under 15. This change is a direct consequence of public policy, of bearing down on preventable deaths. But an unsophisticated debate about the impact of ageing has portrayed this as a disaster. Our everyday language tends to stigmatise, portraying ageing as a threat and older people as burdens hogging resources and hoarding assets.

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Paul Burstow MP writes…Government makes concessions on Care Bill

nhs sign lrgOver the last week I have been working with 38 degrees who ran a strong campaign raising concerns about a key clause in the Care Bill that made changes to the way in which a hospital in serious financial or clinical trouble would be handled in the NHS.

Trust special administration (TSA) as it is known, was introduced by Labour in 2009.  It is a blunt process that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances of financial or clinical failure.

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Paul Burstow MP writes…My two suggestions to improve the Care Bill

Knowing that you will receive the best care available is of critical importance to everyone who finds themselves needing support from social care services. This is why when I was Care Minister, I was passionate about making that a reality – and I still am. As Minister I published the Care Bill, overhauling decades of complex, arcane and out of date legislation to set out a social care system fit for the twenty first century.

The Care Bill, which I subsequently scrutinised as Chair of the Joint Committee on the Bill, is a piece of legislation I – and Liberal Democrats …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Government should make New Year’s resolution to tackle mental health employment scandal

Mental health has rightly gone up the political agenda since the coalition came to power. Long neglected, mental health problems cost the UK in excess of £105 billion annually and affect one in four of the population.

Earlier this month saw publication of the most comprehensive picture of progress on mental health. The government’s Mental Health Dashboard brings together in one place mental health data from a wide range of sources for the first time. Its aim is to monitor the progress achieved in implementing the No Health Without Mental Health strategy.

My successor at the Department of Health, care …

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Paul Burstow MP writes…Standardised cigarette packaging – reviewing the evidence, or just kicking the can down the road?

The news today that the Coalition Government is launching an independent review of the evidence for standardised packaging is welcome. It marks an important shift from the position Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt took in July that he would wait until the “emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured”. Australia of course led the world when the previous Government, with all Party support, introduced standardised packaging in December last year.

More welcome still is that news that the Government will take the legal powers to introduce standardised packaging in the Children and Families Bill

A four month review …

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Paul Burstow writes … we must pay greater attention to the mental health needs of children

The recent report from the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, on children’s health makes for sobering reading. Together with warnings about a lack of physical activity, and vitamin deficiencies, the need to pay greater attention to the mental health of our children and young people came out painfully clearly.

Current estimates put the annual costs of mental health problems among children aged 5-15 at around £2.35 billion across the UK. Yet only around one in four children are receiving help from specialist services within 3 years, and, as the report’s atlas of variation reveals, access may be most …

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Paul Burstow writes… The care bill must deliver for carers

Across the country today, almost a million people are selflessly caring for friends and family with cancer. Their work is incredible and inspiring, and not only means the world to those they care for, but makes a massive contribution to our society. For far too long their role has been overlooked. It is why while I was Care Minister I made sure that the Care Bill enshrines new rights for carers in England.

The Bill rightly puts carers at the centre of care – as equal partners in care planning who, for the first time, will have clear …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Parity for mental health: learning lessons from across the pond

The last few weeks have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of mental health. We had the very welcome announcement from Norman Lamb that the government is leading by example, with commitments from 13 departments to sign up to ‘Time to Change’. That was the good news. The bad came in the form of the thoughtless and stigmatising portrayal of mental illness in Halloween customs sold by ASDA and Tesco, companies that should have known better. The ugly could be found on the front page of The Sun with its irresponsible …

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Hard won new rights for vulnerable young carers are a welcome step forward

Young CarerFor far too long, the needs of hundreds of thousands of young carers who do incredible things to look after and support members of their family have been overlooked. They pay a big price with their school work, their social lives, and very often their own health.

The role of carers at any age is still not valued or recognised anywhere near enough. This is despite the strides Lib Dems in government have made recognising carers needs and, for the first time, establishing the right in legislation to have these needs assessed.

But, as the Care Bill for adults and the Children and Families Bill passed through parliament in tandem, many of us realised that young carers were once again falling through the gaps. They were not covered by the new rights in the Care Bill and were overlooked by the Children and Families Bill.

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Paul Burstow writes: Greater focus on funding, prevention and integration essential to improve the social care in England

The law governing social care in England is a dog’s breakfast. The product of 60 years of piecemeal legislating it is complex, confusing and sometime contradictory patchwork that is out of date and hard to understand. The government have recognised the need to change this and last year published the draft Care and Support Bill, Caring for our future: reforming care and support, to overhaul the legal framework.

As the Minister at the time I led drafting the Bill drawing on the recommendations of a Law Commission Review.  My aim throughout has been to secure a modern legal framework that is …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Mental health, no excuses

Over the past few days Channel Four has been highlighting mental health with its #4goesmad series of programmes. With the aim of debunking the myths and stigma surrounding mental health, they are well worth a watch.

I watched both Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson programmes.  Both told powerful and compelling stories  of people coming to terms with their mental health and talking openly about it often for the first time. One such moment was when a successful chef told his restaurant staff that he had, quite recently, contemplated suicide. Getting this confession out into the open was a symbol of that …

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Paul Burstow writes: Have Your Say on Care and Support

A fortnight ago I wrote about how the Care and Support White paper and draft Bill signalled the biggest overhaul of social care in over 60 years.

The media storm triggered by that announcement inevitably focused on a single issue – namely who pays for care.

And while of course that issue is very important (and is something I care deeply about), it doesn’t address the urgent problem of fixing our broken system of social care.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Radically reforming social care

Most of you will have a friend or family member who needs some kind of care and support to help them get through the day.

In fact, more than 80% of us will need some form of care once we turn 65 – which is why getting social care right is so important.

It’s important because it touches upon some of the most essential things in life, like being healthy, happy and independent.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Let’s talk about poo

I never really thought I’d be giving interviews on the topic of poo, but that’s exactly what I was doing yesterday.

It’s all part of a drive to encourage more people than ever before to spot the signs of bowel cancer. So on Monday I launched the Government’s first ever national bowel cancer awareness campaign, in the hope that we can save lives across the country.

Of course, nobody actually wants to talk about poo, but we need to get over that little bit of embarrassment and make that trip to the GP.

At the moment, most of us …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Want to know how we can improve three million lives?

If I said the words “telecare” and “telehealth” to the person on the street it’s likely they wouldn’t have a clue what I was on about. They’re hardly phrases which just trip off the tongue.

But dig under that jargon and you’ll find that these are really very simple technologies which can help elderly people and those with long-term conditions right across the country.

Yesterday I hosted a launch of the Three Million Lives campaign. Very simply this campaign is a public declaration of how Government and industry will work together to make sure millions of lives are transformed. And because the …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Time to Care: patients not paperwork

Being a nurse is a tough job, and we all admire those who have a calling to care for others. But when a loved one is sick in hospital we quite understandably worry and want the best for them.

One of the most important tasks of government is to ensure that good standards of hospital care are maintained wherever people live and whatever their needs. To make progress on this key issue we must free-up nurses from red tape and allow them to carry out the work they’re trained to do.

As a Liberal Democrat health minister I have seen and heard …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… A Future-proof Health Service

The Liberal Democrats have always recognised that if we want the best health service in the world, we must continue to innovate and invest.

That is why I want to highlight how new funding announced on Monday will ultimately support life-saving research and help to protect millions of vulnerable people living with long-term conditions at home.

I have long championed the benefits of telecare and telehealth (home-based alarm and monitoring devices), so I want to highlight the fact this high-tech equipment will now be accessible to another three million people over the next five years.

This week I met a care …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Give carers a break, not a breakdown

Whenever I meet a carer I am humbled by their dedication and touched by the love they show in the face of daily adversity. To be a carer you have to be a pretty special person. It is also likely that you feel your tireless efforts to care for a family member or friend generally go unnoticed.

But the Liberal Democrats want to make sure this silent army of carers is recognised. Every year unpaid carers save our national services an estimated £119 billion a year, which is why we included a manifesto pledge to provide guaranteed respite care for …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: The hidden potential of early diagnosis

To be told that you or a loved one has cancer is likely to be one of the most gut-wrenching moments of anyone’s life. To be further informed that the chances of survival are low is devastating. But if more people knew they could live a fuller life for longer, we could ease the impact of that devastating time.

Last week I commissioned health officials to conduct a scoping exercise into early diagnosis across the health service. The plan is that research will help us to understand what, if any, evidence exists as to the extent of delayed diagnosis and its …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Getting better at waiting

Most of us know what it feels like to sit in a hospital waiting room, and it is not often a pleasant experience. The time spent waiting can be worrying, stressful and uncomfortable. Indeed, waiting for any kind of treatment is never going to be easy – which is why the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping waiting times low. We aim to do this while engaging in the difficult task, set in motion by the last Labour Government, to find £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015.

Last year I said that people needed to be seen and diagnosed

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Let’s end this silent scandal

1,800 people with dementia are dying every year having been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, and I am determined to end this silent scandal.

For more than a decade I have been campaigning to reduce the number of people whose lives are cut short thanks to the routine long-term prescribing of drugs by GPs. These drugs have sedative effects which makes it easier to ‘manage’ dementia patients. But they are effectively a chemical cosh which have side effects and can have devastating consequences.

Last year, as minister for care services, I set an ambitious target to reduce the number of patients routinely given anti-psychotic …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Mental health – changing attitudes, tackling stigma

Paul Burstow visits Duke McKenzie's

At our party conference in Birmingham, I was asked the question; “what issues can we campaign on at the next general election?” Given that this was during the health Bill Q&A session, I imagine most people in the audience expected me to focus on NHS reform. Instead I talked about mental health, and in particular our party’s long standing campaign for parity of esteem between mental and physical health. There are many obstacles to overcome but we are making progress …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Lifting of lifetime gay blood donation ban – progress, but not the final word

The lifetime ban on men who have had sex with men (MSM) is an issue that our party has always felt uncomfortable with. Superficially it looks little more than a discriminatory throwback to the 1980s stereotypes associated with gay men and increased risk of sexual disease.

Yesterday the Government took a significant step in changing their position by announcing the lifting of the lifetime ban on MSM from giving blood. So let me give you the detail about how that decision was reached, and what it means for men wanting to donate blood.

The previous Government had also questioned the …

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Keeping competition in its box

Mention the words “competition” and “the NHS”, and you will often get the same two responses. A misapprehension which confuses competition with privatisation. But also an instinctive desire to reject new providers in order to protect the NHS. We understand this reaction, and we understand why people are cautious about competition.

The creation of the NHS is a cherished part of the liberal story. It was a liberal, working in a Coalition, who first imagined the NHS and its values of healthcare available to all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay. That’s why Nick Clegg has consistently made it crystal clear that we will never privatise the NHS. And why you will never have to pay for your NHS care under our watch.

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Social care’s little secret – it’s never been free

None of us know if we will need care in the future, or how much it might cost. But we do know that 1 in 4 of us will face care costs of more than £50,000. What’s more, 1 in 10 will be unlucky enough to face care costs of more than £100,000 in our older age. This is social care’s nasty little secret.

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Paul Burstow MP writes: Continuing to support Cancer Networks

Governments often pursue brave, bold new policies. But genuinely brave Government isn’t always about acting; it’s about listening, understanding and acting. And it’s also about admitting when you haven’t got it right. You’d have to have been living on another planet not to know that we have “paused” the Health and Social Care Bill. Our Sheffield conference made it perfectly clear that Liberal Democrats will not sign up to proposals without changes. We understand that this has to be much more than superficial tinkering. The message has been received loud and clear: only substantial changes will do. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. But there has also been another example of how this Government is prepared to listen and to act.

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Paul Burstow writes… Labour shouldn’t play party politics with the NHS

On Saturday I gave a guarantee to every party member that I, along with other Liberal Democrat members of the Government would listen to every word that you had to say. I completely stand by that. If there are ways in which we can amend the Health and Social Care Bill then we will work to do it. But what we won’t do is to allow our Spring Conference to be hijacked and used as a political tool by Labour. And that’s exactly what they tried to do today.

Today was one of Labour’s designated days in Parliament when they are …

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Paul Burstow writes: I will be listening to members on NHS at #ldconf

This is the first spring conference since we entered Government. In all the years I’ve been a Liberal Democrat I’ve never known of such a potentially explosive spring conference. Or at least that’s what the media would have you believe. Debating policy is part of our DNA. And it shouldn’t change now that we’re in Government. This spring conference we’ll be debating the coalition’s proposals to update the NHS. And unlike in the media, it won’t be a case of who shouts loudest wins.

I understand why people are so concerned. Every time I meet party members …

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Paul Burstow writes… A few facts about the NHS

The greatest enemy of truth is not the lie but the myth. This could have been written with our health proposals in mind. Let me start with the myth that our plans are ‘revolutionary’. The ‘revolutionary’ label embodies neatly what many people wrongly envisage to be untried and untested changes to the NHS. Swamped by all the myth, misunderstanding and mistruths, the facts have struggled to get heard. So let me give you a few of the facts.

Under the previous Labour Government healthcare spending increased significantly. But where Britain spent big, other countries spent better. That is why Britain has …

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