Health at Home and Abroad

Week Ending 2nd October 2015

Last week I spent 4 days in Ethiopia as part of a Parliamentary Delegation led by NGO Results UK to look at the impact UK aid is having on the country. The main areas of focus for our visit were those of women’s health and polio immunisation programme. It was really interesting to see how health care is being developed and expanded across the poorer and more rural parts of the country. The geography of Ethiopia and the nomadic living of large pockets of the population make delivering healthcare a real challenge, but this is being tackled in part by some very innovative practice, such as a village health posts which are staffed by two young women who are trained on sanitation, hygiene and immunisation and issuing of mosquito nets to prevent Malaria. They also provide support for pregnant women and babies of malnutrition.

On a more worrying note, however, is the risk of yet another famine in the country over the coming months. The rains have failed to arrive again this year, which has resulted in a drought and, subsequently, a grave lack of crops at harvest time. The drought is unquestionably a result of climate change and it is incumbent on nations such as ours who are in a position to help slow down the process to do much more. At a time when we are witnessing a refugee crisis of epic proportions as a result of civil war across the Middle East and North Africa, we must recognise that drastic changes in weather patterns will generate many thousands more refugees as people flee from drought and starvation, and this is something I intend to raise in the Parliament in the very near future. While previous wars may have been about oil, those of the future will be about water.

On my return to the UK, I travelled to York to speak at the ‘Doctors for the NHS’ conference in York, where doctors from across the UK doctors gathered to discuss the future of the Health Service in England. Those in attendance are utterly against the privatisation and creeping introduction of charges that is happening in the English NHS and it was a privilege, as the opening speaker, to address fellow professionals on the subject and talk about how the Scottish Government is protecting the NHS in Scotland from any such changes.

Preserving the principle that our Health Service should be free at the point of use was the primary driver in my decision to stand for election and has been the subject of several speeches and contributions that I have made in the House of Commons over the past 4 months. And, it will be once again this week when I speak in Westminster Hall debate on the UK Government cuts to the Welfare System, highlighting how poverty can impact on health and the life chances of even an unborn child developing in the womb.

Away from politics and I would like to congratulate Irvine and Dreghorn Brass Band for an 8th place finish at the recent National Brass Band Championships.