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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • Jan 19, 2018:
    • Asylum | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many asylum seekers waited over six months for a decision on their asylum application in 2017.

  • Jan 18, 2018:
  • Jan 10, 2018:
    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      The hon. Lady mentioned proton beam therapy, which is a wonderful treatment. We are grateful for the investment of more than one Government, which has ensured that it is coming to Manchester and London. She also talked about upgrading existing equipment, which is a reminder that 80% of commonly occurring cancers will still be treated by linear accelerators, albeit regularly upgraded. Therefore the delivery of proton beam therapy and other specialist and precise treatments, and the investment in more locally delivered treatment from linear accelerators in places such as Westmorland, are not mutually exclusive. We need to do both.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      All the points that the hon. Lady makes are absolutely right and relevant to those of us who are here today-especially so, given the nature of her county.

      Our community in south Cumbria remains proud that we won part one of our fight for a cancer centre. When we launched our campaign in 2009, it was for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In 2011, we cut the ribbon on the Grizedale ward-the chemotherapy unit-and we are determined to win our fight for radiotherapy too. We have had an overwhelming response to the petition we launched again last September, adding to the 10,000 people who signed the original petition. Thousands more have written in and shared their stories with me locally and nationally. They include stories of the pain they went through in travelling hours every day to get the treatment that they desperately needed; stories of families who suffered watching relatives deteriorate as the long days of arduous travel visibly took their toll; and stories of choosing not to proceed with treatment because of the unbearable rigours of travelling huge distances. All those people have told me how a centre at Kendal could have helped them and their loved ones.

      Most of us know, and all can imagine, the shock of being diagnosed with cancer. It is a life-shattering blow. Imagine then being faced with weeks of daily, grindingly long and tiring journeys to receive care. The travel can become the biggest part of the problem. One of my constituents, Philip from Grange-over-Sands, gave me this story, and his words speak more powerfully than any I could use. He said:

      "At the age of 81 I had to attend 37 visits for treatment between the May and July 2013. The round trip from Grange to Preston Hospital was in excess of 100 miles per day whether by road or by train and then bus to the hospital. The times of my treatment varied day by day from 8am to 6pm. The treatment machine was not always available at the specified time which meant further time added on to the days travelling. All the above resulted in a very stressful time for myself and my wife on top of suffering from prostate cancer."

      Thankfully, Philip has now been discharged following three years of follow-up visits. He added:

      "I trust that future patients may get their treatment at Kendal so good luck with your efforts."

      I was also contacted by the parents of Josie from Oxenholme. They told me:

      "After a truly horrific chemo-therapy regime, which nearly killed her, Josie was left shattered and we faced the prospect of having to make daily trips for 4 weeks to Preston for Radiotherapy. The round trip typically takes 4-5 hours. She is left tired and with little time in the day to do much else. A unit in Kendal would have transformed this experience and left her with more energy and time to take more care of herself."

      Lastly, the words of Magda from Windermere sum up the problem perfectly:

      "The whole idea of ever having to do any of this again would make me think twice about undergoing the treatments I was offered".

      Thousands of residents joined me back in 2009 when we launched a similar campaign to bring chemotherapy treatment to the south Lakes. Back then, patients had to travel many miles for any kind of cancer treatment. Thanks to local support, the chemotherapy ward at Westmorland General Hospital opened in 2011, and since then, hundreds of local people have benefited from treatment there. We showed that when a community gets behind a campaign and the Government recognises that there is a real issue, changes can be made, funding can be allocated and problems can be solved.

      It is true that the problem of outrageous travel times thankfully affects a relatively small proportion of the population throughout the UK-evidenced by the fact that although this is a massively important issue, only a few of us are here today-but in the places where access is a problem, it is a dreadful problem. NHS England must address it directly and explicitly in its current consultation on radiotherapy. I ask the Minister to ensure that NHS England does just that.

      Solving the problem for south Cumbria would not create an expensive precedent-there are relatively few sizeable communities in this position-but for the people who are affected, living in rural areas makes accessing treatment unbearably difficult and arduous. That was highlighted recently by Age UK's Painful Journeys campaign. It would cost the Government a relatively small amount to fund a satellite radiotherapy unit in Kendal: a capital cost of about £12 million-a sum that had been earmarked during the coalition Government in early 2015. That investment would lead to important changes. Above all, it would stop local people from opting not to take up lifesaving treatment because of the need to travel those distances. In south Lakeland, the number of people aged over 60 is 10% above the national average, so older people and people with disabilities in our area are disproportionately negatively affected by distant access to radiotherapy treatment. That makes it all the more important for us to take advantage of this consultation to tackle the problem.

      The Equality Act 2010 was passed by the House to ensure that services are offered to people in such a way as not to discriminate against older and disabled people, among other characteristics. Through those unbearably long travel times, those groups are disproportionately disadvantaged and indirectly discriminated against in breach of that Act.

      My request is simple. I want travel times and equality of access, particularly for people who are older or who have disabilities, to be key criteria when allocating cancer services. This NHS England consultation on radiotherapy is the opportunity to ensure that those criteria are set so that access is prioritised. I want the Minister to agree to do that today. An expectation should then be placed on hospital trusts to ensure that satellite units of existing established centres are provided in rural communities such as the south Lakes to meet those criteria. Only then will our community be able to access cancer treatment fairly, equally and safely.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      Yes, I fully agree. That is why the NHS England consultation is the right time to set criteria. If we all say, "We'd rather like it if these issues are addressed," nothing will happen, but if they are set as firm criteria and priorities as a consequence of the consultation, something should happen. The hon. Gentleman was right to raise that point.

      Requiring NHS trusts to make it a priority for investment to ensure that radiotherapy is available more locally-such as by bringing a satellite unit to our local hospital in Kendal-would significantly improve outcomes for patients. That has been the focus of our long-running community campaign. I want to say a massive thank you to the many thousands of people who have been involved in that campaign so far. Just before Christmas, on behalf of our community, I presented a private Member's Bill that would specify 45 minutes as the maximum time that patients have to travel to access radiotherapy treatment. I urge the Minister to support that Bill and ensure that the Government accept it.

      I was asked on the radio this morning why, after nine years of fighting this campaign, I had not just accepted defeat and walked away. The answer is that every week in Westmorland, more families learn that they must fight cancer, and we have no right to turn our backs on them. Sadly, the challenge of cancer renews itself week after week, and so our zeal in fighting for those families must also be renewed week after week.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      I am very happy to acknowledge the work of local charities in my area. The Rosemere Cancer Foundation and South Lakes CancerCare do immensely good work, just like the charities in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

      For some people living in the remotest areas of my part of the world-in south Cumbria-who are eligible for hospital-provided pick-ups, a round trip to access treatment in Preston, including waiting times, could easily surpass six hours. That is on a good day, when all standards are being met.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman's wife for her work, but also to say that he is absolutely right. There are great models, including from the Christie in Manchester, where they already operate satellite services. Arguing for rural or any form of standalone cancer services is foolish and is not what I am asking for. I am asking for satellites of existing, established, high-quality cancer units such as the Rosemere in Preston, the Christie or others of that nature. Making sure that we meet those needs by having a satellite unit at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal would have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people in south Cumbria who are living with cancer. That is what I ask the Minister to do.

      Radiotherapy treatment at Westmorland General Hospital is long overdue and would mean the world to local people, who now have to make the long journey to Preston for treatment. Let us be clear: the Rosemere unit in Preston is excellent-my own mother received wonderful treatment there, and the quality of the service and care provided by NHS professionals still moves me when I look back today-but for most people in south Cumbria, it is ludicrously distant.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      I very much acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's powerful point. In general, it is important that none of us are misunderstood here: centres of excellence are incredibly important; nevertheless access to treatment is also important. Where we are at the moment means that we are looking at the former to the exclusion of the latter, when both could be considered.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising those issues and his own personal experiences. As I will come to in a moment, the issues affecting children and young people are even greater. I am very happy to pay tribute to the work and provision of CLIC Sargent and, in particular, to recognise the impact on people with cancer who have young children themselves. Maintaining an income and maintaining family life is an immense challenge, and the distances involved can make it yet harder, so I thank him for that intervention.

      In its 2007 report, the national radiotherapy advisory group recommended that cancer patients should have to travel no more than 45 minutes one way-an hour and a half both ways-to receive radiotherapy treatment. This was adopted in the service specification by NHS England, but has since disappeared. Experts in the field maintain that travelling any longer could have a hugely negative impact on treatment outcomes and patient wellbeing. If preventing unacceptable travelling times became a part of NHS England's criteria for delivering radiotherapy, it would hugely increase our chances of bringing a radiotherapy satellite unit to Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

    • Cancer Treatment: Patient Travel Times - [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      I beg to move,

      That this House has considered patient travel times for cancer treatment.

      It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I should also like to consider satellite radiotherapies at Westmorland General Hospital.

      Almost every story that I have heard or read in recent times about the national health service has been negative. I understand why, given the debate in the main Chamber at this moment, but I sometimes wonder how much this further damages the morale of the thousands of professionals who work in the national health service. So I want to start by paying tribute and saying a massive thank you to those NHS professionals who work tirelessly up and down the country, day in and day out, to look after us and our loved ones when we need it most. I especially want to put on record my appreciation for those who work in cancer care. We have some of the best cancer care in the world. We should all take a moment to recognise the fantastically high standard of treatment that we have in this country, delivered by professionals whose competence and compassion are the hallmark of our NHS.

      But here is the problem: yes, we have world-leading treatment, but it is not truly available equally. The availability of care depends hugely on people's ability to access it. I welcome, and have done so on the record, the £130 million announced by NHS England that is to be invested in improving radiotherapy treatment, and the new service specification, which aims to improve standards across the country. Working in clinical networks and developing specialised services has a strong evidence base, but what is not addressed is the inequality in access to services that already exist. That inequality will only get worse if it is not addressed now by NHS England. I am grateful to the Government that the consultation into allocating that investment has been extended to 24 January, not least because it gives the Minister the chance to amend the criteria and the priorities for allocating services.

      I passionately believe that one of the criteria in allocating improved radiotherapy services must be the shortening of the distances that people have to travel, especially for those with more common cancers. My position is backed up by evidence, including a publication in The BMJ in 2016 indicating that outcomes are worse for people who need to travel further. Let me be clear what "worse outcomes" actually means. Worse outcomes can mean patients actively deciding to forgo potentially life-saving or life-lengthening treatment because getting to hospital is just too much of a trauma for them owing to the length and difficulty of the journey that is required. Worse outcomes means choosing forms of treatment that may be less effective than radiotherapy because the nearest unit is too far away. Worse outcomes includes patients failing to complete a vital course of radiotherapy treatment because they simply cannot cope with the gruelling, wearying travelling every single day.

      Action Radiotherapy estimates that one in six of us will need radiotherapy to treat cancer at some point in our lives, but easy access to this treatment can depend entirely on a postcode lottery. It is the sad reality that in rural areas of England travel times to cancer treatments can be unbearably long for too many people, and patients are often forced to cover these long distances on public transport. Not everyone has the option of travelling in the relative comfort of a personal car, and even if a person does, driving themselves or being driven, day in and day out for four to six weeks, is a massive challenge. I believe that it is frankly cruel, if we could do otherwise, to force people who are already very poorly to make a two or three-hour round trip every day, for weeks, in order to receive life-saving care.

  • Jan 8, 2018:
  • Dec 20, 2017:
    • Petition - Urgent Treatment Centre, Westmorland General Hospital | Commons debates

      I rise to present a petition calling for an urgent treatment centre at the Westmorland General Hospital. There are 2,500 petitioners.

      The petition states:

      The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

      Declares that many people in South Lakes have to endure long journeys to the Accident and Emergency units at Royal Lancaster Infirmary in Lancaster and Furness General Hospital in Barrow as the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal does not have the necessary facilities to cope with the majority of Accident and Emergency cases.

      The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring an Urgent Treatment Centre to Westmorland General Hospital, not only to provide urgent care closer to home for South Lakes residents, but to also help relieve pressure on the Accident and Emergency units at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Furness General Hospital and ensure ambulances are not stuck waiting there in long queues.

      And the petitioners remain, etc.


    • Engagements | Oral Answers to Questions - Prime Minister | Commons debates

      Thank you for your characteristic greeting, Mr Speaker. I wish everyone a merry Christmas, especially the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson).

      The Prime Minister will be aware that NHS England has extended the deadline for its consultation on the allocation of radiotherapy services into the new year. Will she therefore take this opportunity to ensure that one of the criteria is shortening the distances that people have to travel-travel time has a massive impact on outcomes-so that people who live in places such as south Cumbria can access this life-saving, utterly urgent treatment safely and quickly?

    • Engagements | Oral Answers to Questions - Prime Minister | Commons debates

      Thank you, Mr Speaker-[Interruption.]

  • Dec 18, 2017:
  • Dec 14, 2017:
  • Dec 13, 2017:
  • Dec 12, 2017:
    • Regulations to deal with deficiencies arising from withdrawal - Independent Report | European Union (Withdrawal) Bill | Commons debates

      I commend the hon. Gentleman for all the remarks that he has just made. I, too, have visited many camps and spoken to unaccompanied child refugees. Does he agree that the case he is making serves as a reminder that our acting honourably and decently, as a country and a continent, does not constitute a pull factor-we are simply responding to the push factor of the appalling circumstances from which those people are fleeing?

    • Regulations to deal with deficiencies arising from withdrawal - Independent Report | European Union (Withdrawal) Bill | Commons debates

      The hon. Gentleman is making some excellent points, and I would like to back him up on them. Would it be worth reflecting on the fact that, rightly or wrongly, being in the European Union means that we make some colossal policy assumptions? On environmental matters, one of those assumptions is that it is right that we invest public money in farming to make sure that we protect our countryside. However, we also, without ever having a debate in the House about it, assume that it is right to, effectively, subsidise food in this country. We may now be in a position where we are about to accept that assumption or to move away from it, with colossal consequences for the whole of our society.