Press Releases

2/3/17

PARLIAMENT MUST HAVE A SAY ON “CALLOUS” DISABILITY BENEFIT CUTS

UK Government Not Fulfilling Commitment to “Parity of Esteem”

Local SNP MP, Dr Philippa Whitford, has backed calls to ensure the UK Government plans to further cut Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are debated in Parliament to allow MPs to fully scrutinise the proposals.

The UK Government announced emergency legislation to change PIP payments are designed to help people cope with the additional costs of living with ill health or a disability – after two tribunal rulings at the end of last year which the UK Government claimed would widen the criteria for PIP and cost billions, but appear to have no plans to bring the issue be-fore the House for debate.

To add insult to injury, last Sunday, Tory MP and head of the Number 10 Policy Unit George Freeman then said the changes would ensure that benefits went to people who are “really disabled” rather than people “who suffer from anxiety”. Quite rightly, this has drawn criticism from disability organisations and Parliamentarians on all sides of the House.

Joining fellow MPs and campaigners against disability cuts outside the Houses of Parlia-ment, Dr Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, said:

“These changes will not only remove many disabled people from eligibility for PIP but, disturbingly, advance the notion that mental health conditions are less worthy of support than physical conditions.

“What happened to the “parity of esteem” – the principle by which mental health must be given equal priority to physical health – which only yesterday, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May claimed her Government has introduced? With policies like this, it is clear that it is nothing but a soundbite for this callous Tory Party.

“Just because an illness cannot be seen does not mean it isn’t incapacitating. Yet, we have PIP claimants across the country being assessed as fit for work on the basis that they can physically walk into and out of their assessment regardless of what may be go-ing on below the surface.

“Now that we have heard there are plans afoot to make it even harder for those with mental health conditions to access PIP, it is imperative that we get clarification on what these changes mean for disabled people who are in need of PIP support in the future and it is vital that MPs are given the opportunity to debate and fully scrutinise these further cuts.

“Clearly, this emergency legislation is about the Tory Government trying to make savings at any cost and with absolutely no thought for the detrimental impact it will have on dis-abled people.”

ENDS


28/2/17
 
SNP MP Seeks Assurances from UK Government on Safety of Emergency Workers

Dr Philippa Whitford MP, SNP Health Spokesperson at Westminster, yesterday (Monday) voiced her concern over the increasing number of attacks on NHS medical staff being reported across England and called on the UK Government to give NHS and other emergency service workers in England the same protection under the law as in Scotland.

The law in Scotland was changed in 2005 under the Emergency Workers (Scot-land) Act to make it an offence to assault or obstruct anyone providing emergency services. This includes the Police, Fire Brigade, Coastguard and NHS staff, including GPs, ambulance, mental health, and social workers.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on a petition which seeks to make it a specific criminal offence in England to attack any member of NHS Medical Staff, Dr Whitford said that making it a specific charge would send out a mes-sage that any such attack on emergency workers is completely unacceptable and would act as a stronger deterrent than is presently the case.

The petition has currently received more than 116,000 signatures and has cross-party support; however, the UK Government believes it isn’t necessary to create a specific offence of assault for emergency workers as the current law provides for any common assault to be prosecuted.

Commenting on the debate, Dr Whitford said:

“While this petition talks about medical staff, I believe it is important to protect all emergency workers. The threat to Police Officers has been recognised for years but making it a specific offence in Scotland to attack NHS staff and other emergency workers has sent out the message to staff that they should report such cases to the police and that they will be investigated.

“Since 2008 the maximum penalty such a charge now carries is a 12-months prison sentence or a fine of £10,000 rather than a 3-month sentence and there have been over 2,700 successful convictions since the law was enacted. Passing a law on its own isn’t enough but the number of reported attacks on emergency workers across Scotland has fallen since 2011.

“While it is a specific offence in England to attack a Police Officer in the course of their duties, this is not extended to NHS staff or other emergency workers. What is striking is that even when there is no medical excuse, such as confusion or dementia, very few cases in England are reported to the police. While half of the assaults on Ambulance staff in England were reported to the police, less than 5% of attacks on Acute or Mental Health staff were reported.

“What is of additional concern is that NHS Protect, the body tasked with over-seeing the measures that Trusts in England were taking to stop physical attacks on doctors and nurses, is to cease working with staff at the end of March as the UK Government believes a new approach is needed to protect staff. A staff consultation is currently underway on the matter but, meantime, the service will end. Given that NHS Protect has stepped in to secure convictions in cases when the police have decided not to act, this is a further blow to the protection of NHS England staff.

“It is possible that the rise in the number of attacks on NHS staff across England year-on-year is aggravated by the increased pressure and delays in the A&E, leading to frayed tempers among patients and their relatives, and leaving staff little time to de-escalate situations. It is important that NHS employers provide training and backup to avoid staff being left in vulnerable situations.

“However, there is never any excuse to resort to abuse, whether verbal or physical, and we must ensure that perpetrators are punished accordingly so that such behaviour does not become viewed as acceptable.

“Attacking public service workers, particularly emergency workers, in the course of their duties is completely unacceptable. While staff in businesses and some public services can walk away, that is not an option for NHS or healthcare workers, especially in an emergency situation.

ENDS.


20/2/17

Local MP Goes Dookin’ to Raise Funds for Charity

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, yesterday (Sunday) took to the sea off Prestwick to help raise funds for a purpose built Holiday Home for chil-dren with life threatening conditions and their families to enjoy a break on the Ayrshire coast. The Valetine’s Dip was organised after the traditional Boxing Day Dip had to be cancelled due to stormy weather.

The proposed facility will replace Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick which closed last year. The charity Ayrshire Holiday Dreams Foundation (MSH) has now been established with the aim of providing a replacement service.

Speaking after the Dip, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to be able to take part in the Valetine’s Dip. I was particularly pleased that the temperature both inside and outside the water was several degrees higher than when I did it previously on Boxing Day 2015! I was also glad to have the Incredible Hulk by my side in the shape of Councillor John Wallace in case of emergency!

“The turnout was excellent with over 200 participants and many more spectat-ing, providing much needed moral support. The atmosphere was great, which always helps to spur you on, and it was especially nice to see so many children taking part with the aim of helping other children.

“It all made for a great day and I congratulate Siobhan Brown, Maxine Allan and all the other organisers and volunteers for putting together such a well-run event.

“I understand that the funds raised so far are in the region of £12,000, which is absolutely fantastic. If you would like to donate, you can still sponsor me at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Philippa-Whitford All contributions greatly appreciated.

valetines-dip_pw-wave


25/1/17

Local MP Welcomes Supreme Court Decision

SNP Will Seek to Ensure the Best Deal for Scotland

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court that the UK Parliament must have the opportunity to vote on legislation before the UK can be taken out of the EU.

Following the decision by the Supreme Court judges on Tuesday, the SNP have said they will put forward “serious and substantive” amendments to the UK Government legislation.

Dr Whitford has also welcomed the UK Government’s announcement that they will publish a ‘White Paper’ but said the Party will seek to amend the legislation to include a call for agreement with the devolved administrations, and that the European Commission must be in agreement of the final terms.

Commenting, Dr Whitford said:

“The Supreme Court’s decision is welcome – the Tories cannot bypass Parliament on one of the biggest decisions facing the UK. Leaving the EU would affect us all; from jobs to industry, our ability to travel and our right to study or work in EU countries, and our access to new medicines – the EU is about so much more than trade.

“In particular, I have concerns over how a ‘hard’ Brexit would affect local industry here in Central Ayrshire. Supply chains which snake backwards and forwards across borders, such as those in the aerospace industry, could be hit hard by tariffs. Together with potentially more restrictive travel, the impact on the aerospace sector around Prestwick could be significant.

“In addition, this week we heard from the Secretary of State for Health that the UK will definitely leave the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Currently, new drugs are licensed in the UK some six months or a year earlier than in Canada and Australia due to our membership of the EMA.

“This provides a single drug licensing system for a population of 500 million people, making us part of a market which is comparable to the United States. As Pharmaceutical companies would then have to make a separate application for the UK so, as this will add more bureaucracy, it is likely to be at a later date.

“Yet, when I asked Prime Minster Theresa May how she would avoid delayed drug access for UK patients, she did not appear to be clear what I was even talking about.

“For six months, SNP MPs have been raising concerns surrounding a hard Tory Brexit but the Prime Minister has not listened. If Theresa May is intent on being true to her word that Scotland and the other devolved administrations are equal partners in this process, then now is the time to show it.

“Our amendments will address the very serious concerns facing our industry, our constituents, and our future outside the EU – the very real issues that the UK government has, thus far, avoided.”

Ends.


25/1/17

Local MP Challenges PM on Brexit Threat to UK Patient Drug Access

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Wednesday) challenged the Prime Minister to set out how she will ensure that UK patients will not have to wait up to a year for access to new drugs as a result of Brexit.

The European Medicine Agency (EMA) provides a drug licensing system which covers the 500 million people in the EEA, meaning new drugs are licensed in the UK six to 12 months before markets such as Canada and Australia.

On Tuesday, to the surprise of the Health Select Committee, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt revealed that the UK will not seek to remain a member of the EMA as part of any Brexit deal. Subsequently, Dr Whitford, took the opportunity to raise the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Dr Whitford, the SNP’s Health Spokesperson and a member of the Parliament’s Health Select Committee, said:

“This week, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed that the UK will not be in the EMA and I challenged the Prime Minister to confirm the Health Secretary’s statement and explain how, if true, she will prevent delayed drug access for UK patients.

“Leaving the EMA would have an impact on the UK Pharmaceutical industry as well as denying patients early access to innovative medicines. Despite this, the Prime Minster didn’t seem to have any suggestions as to how she plans to minimise this impact; which seems to be a recurring theme from this Tory Government when it comes to Brexit.”

Ends.


10/1/17

Local MPs Meet with UK Secretary of State to Discuss Ayrshire Growth Deal

On return to Westminster after the New Year, MP for Central Ayrshire, Dr Philippa Whitford, together with her 3 Ayrshire colleagues – Alan Brown MP, Patricia Gibson MP, and Corri Wilson MP – met with UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark MP, on Monday (9th) to discuss a possible Growth Deal for Ayrshire. Dr Whitford had secured the meeting during a Parliamentary Questions session before Parliament rose for recess in December.

The Ayrshire Growth Deal is a joint business venture between the three Ayrshire local authorities, which aims to secure £350 million of funding from the Scottish and UK Governments to develop projects across the region and help transform the economic prospects for Ayrshire. The plan has already received support from the Scottish Government and the local MPs were keen to obtain a similar commitment from the UK Government to help move the process forward.

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Whitford said:

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity, along with my fellow Ayrshire MPs, to have met with the Secretary of State for what proved to be a very productive meeting. He was very positive about the proposal, particularly the collaborative approach of the 3 councils, and because it is the first non-city growth deal to be submitted, with plans to develop rural and semi-rural as well as industrial areas”

“As well as being supportive of the AGD on its own merits, Mr Clark was also interested in how the Ayrshire proposal could feed into the UK Government’s overall Industrial Strategy and generate new approaches that could be applicable to other areas.

“Going forward, the Secretary of State plans to arrange a meeting between UK Government and Scottish Government Minsters to discuss the proposal in more detail. With Cabinet Secretary Keith Brown having already indicated his support, hopefully the Growth Deal can make progress in the coming months.”

“Meantime, my fellow Ayrshire MPs and I will be showcasing the AGD, including Ayrshire’s life sciences, aerospace and space sectors, at an event we are hosting in Westminster on 8th February, to which Mr Clark is hoping to come along.”

Ends.


22/11/16

Local MP Congratulates Tarbolton Primary for the ‘Best Breakfast Club in Scotland’

tarbolton-ps-at-wm

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today congratulated Tarbolton Primary School for being awarded the Kellogg’s ‘Best Breakfast Club in Scotland’ award. In a ceremony held at Westminster, teachers and pupils were presented with their award, having travelled down to London for the day.

Dr Whitford attended the prize-giving to see the school receive their award and congratulate them in person. Speaking after the event, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to attend today’s ceremony and see the teachers and pupils receive their award. The ‘Best Breakfast Club in Scotland’ – what a fantastic achievement! Having only been established three years ago, the club has already become a well-established part of the school day, benefitting parents as well as pupils.

“As well as providing those who attend with a healthy breakfast, equipping the children for the school day ahead, the club also helps to build important life skills such as confidence and punctuality.

“Huge congratulations go to all those involved, particularly gym teacher Rachel Nelson who started the club to ensure pupils had sufficient breakfast to set them up for the day at school. Miss Nelson has dedicated an enormous amount of her own time to this project and is rightly being recognised for her fantastic effort.

“It was lovely that Miss Nelson and some of the pupils who regularly attend the Breakfast Club at Tarbolton could receive their award in person and I know they all thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the House of Commons.”

Local MP Congratulates St Mark’s on Breakfast Club Award

St Mark's PS at WM.JPG

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today congratulated St Mark’s Primary School for being awarded the Kellogg’s ‘Long Life and Sustainability’ award for their daily breakfast club. In a ceremony held at Westminster, teachers and pupils were presented with their award, having travelled down to London for the day.

Dr Whitford attended the prize-giving to see the school receive their award and congratulate them in person. Speaking after the event, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to attend today’s ceremony and see the teachers and pupils receive their award. The ‘Long Life and Sustainability’ accolade celebrates clubs which are self-sufficient and, having only been established in 2014, it is a fantastic achievement for St Mark’s to have already achieved this.

“The Club, which is run by a group of volunteers, receives food donations from local charity FareShare, as well as donations from a local parish. They also run regular fundraising events and take part in bag packing at local supermarkets.

“As well as providing a free, healthy breakfast to the pupils of St. Mark’s, the Club runs activities to develop the children’s self-esteem and social skills. In addition, those who attend learn to tidy up after themselves, practice good manners and also relax before the school day begins; all of which improves the pupils’ attitude to school and their readiness to learn.

“My congratulations go to all those involved as running a project of this nature takes huge effort and commitment. It was lovely that some of the teachers and pupils who regularly attend the Breakfast Club at St Mark’s could come to receive their award in person and I know they all thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the House of Commons.”

09/06/16

Local MP Voices Concerns over Malcolm Sargent House

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Thursday) voiced concerns at the news that CLIC Sargent is planning to withdraw the holiday service they provide at Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick for children suffering from cancer and their families.

In a bid to rationalise their services in what they describe as “the challenging fundraising environment”, CLIC Sargent has decided to prioritise the services that have the greatest impact on the largest number of children and young people who use them. Whilst they feel the holiday service at Malcolm Sargent House provides excellent quality, they say it only reaches a small number of patients in a limited geographical area and is not a core service.

Speaking on the issue, Dr Whitford said:

“This is extremely disappointing news, not only for the many young people and their families who have spent time at Malcolm Sargent House but for the dedicated staff and fundraisers who work tirelessly to provide such an invaluable service.

“I understand the difficult financial climate that many charities are operating in and that they can’t always do everything they would like to. It is, however, extremely sad to think that such a fantastic facility could be closed due to financial constraints, especially when children and families who have used the service say that a value couldn’t be placed on the support it gave to them.

“Malcolm Sargent House is highly regarded both locally and nationally; indeed, it is the emblem of the CLIC Sargent organisation in Scotland. It has a place in the hearts of the people of Prestwick and beyond, many of whom raise funds for the facility, and I sincerely hope its time is not at an end.

“I have written to CLIC Sargent both locally and nationally and am meeting with their Chief Executive next week to look at what options are available to save Malcolm Sargent House so that it can continue to support young people and their families.”

20/05/16

Local MP Welcomes Boost for Prestwick’s Spaceport Bid

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, today (Friday) welcomed the announcement in Thursday’s Queen Speech debate on Transport, that the UK Government will now seek to establish a licensing system through which suitable sites can apply for a Spaceport licence rather than choose one site from their shortlist.

The decision, which will enable any suitable location to develop as a Spaceport, effectively gives Prestwick the green light to forge ahead with its ambitious plans. Although it was considered to be in the top 3 shortlisted, the favourite was Newquay in the South West of England but for political rather than commercial reasons.

Commenting on the news, Dr Whitford said:

“This is fantastic news for Prestwick. While I have been working hard to promote Prestwick as the ideal site for the UK’s first Spaceport, I have also been calling for a licensing system to enable more than one site to develop in what is a fast growing industry rather than have them all compete for one prize.

“This was the main thrust of the motion I put before the House when I secured a debate on the UK Space industry in January. More recently I highlighted that, following the US model, a license will be required for each individual vehicle and, as such, a licensing system will be inevitable. I am, therefore, utterly delighted to hear that the Government has abandoned their long held plan of a competition and is instead planning to establish Space Launch licenses.

“Prestwick Airport is ideally suited to housing a Spaceport with its long runway, clear weather, good transport links and Air Traffic Control on site. The surrounding Aerospace Cluster would contribute to the development of the launch vehicles and just up the road we have Clyde Space, the world leader in the production of ultra small Cube satellites. Prestwick is probably the closest shortlisted site to achieving launch capability and our chances of developing that role commercially have now vastly increased.

“The Spaceport team, led originally by Stuart McIntyre and now by Mike Stewart of Prestwick Airport, have been working tirelessly to showcase Prestwick’s advantages to the industry. Given their proactive approach, I feel we have a real advantage over other sites and could well be ready to welcome Space industries to Prestwick in the next year or so. I will, of course, continue to work with them and support them in their endeavours in the coming months.”

22/4/16

Local MP welcomes Tree Planting along Troon Cycle Path

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, today (Friday) welcomed the completion of a 3-day programme of tree planting along the cycle path between Willockston Road and Craigend Road. The trees, planted by SP Energy Networks in partnership with the Scottish Woodlands, followed a recent cable upgrade project carried out by the utility company, which had needlessly uprooted an excess number of trees.

The company is currently undertaking a £2 million network upgrade project in Troon, which will strengthen the security of electricity supplies for thousands of homes and businesses in the local area. However, following the cable laying along the cycle path, walkers and cyclists who regularly use the path were shocked to see the amount of destruction that had occurred in proportion to the works carried out.

As such, Dr Whitford met with the company to discuss a plan to replant trees in the area and, following further discussions with local community groups and other stakeholders, a comprehensive proposal was agreed with South Ayrshire Council.

The main works were completed today and Dr Whitford joined SP Energy Networks on site to see the results up close. Commenting, Dr Whitford said:

“I am delighted to see that new trees have now been planted to replace those removed by the recent works. I am particularly pleased that my suggestion to include some more mature trees was accepted by the company, which gives the planting more structure and will help ensure a speedier regrowth of the woodland border. This was important in shielding walkers from stray golf balls as well as providing shade.

“It may look a little raw to begin with but it will soon start to take shape and I would like to thanks SP Energy Networks for accepting responsibility for the unnecessary removal of trees and then acting so quickly to try and repair the damage.”

Graham Campbell, SP Energy Networks District General Manager, said:

“We have worked closely with the local community, the Council, and Dr Philippa Whitford MP to develop a plan to replant trees along the cycle path following a recent cable upgrade in the area. The main tree planting has now been completed and based on our meeting with Dr Whitford we are considering options to scatter wild flowers or equivalent whilst the trees establish themselves. SP Energy Networks are also actively considering a maintenance contract to ensure the trees are given the best opportunity to develop.

“We would like to thank residents for their patience while we completed this work, and apologise again for the inconvenience that our original cable laying caused.”

15/4/16

Philippa Whitford to Support E-petition Debate on Funding for Brain Tumour Research

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, will today (Monday) speak in support of e-petition 105660 calling for an increase in funding for research into brain tumours. During a Westminster Hall debate, the SNP Spokesperson for Health at Westminster will call on the UK Government to raise the percentage of cancer research funding brain tumour research.

The e-petition was started by Maria Lester, who lost her brother as a result of a brain tumour at the age of just 26, and was supported by the charity Brain Tumour Research. The petition called on the UK Government to provide more funding for research into brain tumours and received 120,129 signatures.

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of under-40s, killing more children and young adults than any other cancer. Currently, only 1 in 5 people will survive and, of those that do, more than half will be left with a significant disability. However, these outcomes could be greatly improved with more funding.

In 2014, only £7.7 million of the £498 million total allocation to cancer research funding went on brain tumour research, which equates to just 3.3% of site-specific cancer research funding. At this rate it would take 100 years to catch up with research developments in other diseases. Brain Tumour Charities are calling for a £30-35 million funding increase to remove some of the barriers to research, such as a lack of qualified staff and the absence of coordinated bio-banking systems like the service available in the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

Following consideration of the petition, the Petition Committee at Westminster noted the UK Government’s failure to grasp funding responsibility or the seriousness of participants’ concerns. The key message from those affected by brain tumours was that “at every stage [the process] fails” – there is a fight to gain a diagnosis, for treatment, for support, poor awareness and historic underfunding; there is little choice in the treatments available and treatment protocols are ineffective.

The Committee’s Inquiry concluded by stating that brain tumour research is inadequate and not given sufficient priority. The UK is losing the chance to lead the world in this area as dedicated researchers go elsewhere where they can access better funding. The lack of resources lets both patients and their families down.

Speaking before the debate, Dr Whitford said,

“Sadly, the incidences of brain tumours are rising and less than 20% of those diagnosed survive beyond 5 years. Current funding levels for research are insufficient and without charitable contributions funding would be negligible.

“Rare cancers get a raw deal in terms of research as funding is allocated according to the number of cases. However, despite being rare, brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer. The only way to improve this situation is to invest more in research. High quality academic research could lead to improved outcomes, as has been the case with other cancers.

“There is a clear justification for additional spending which is why I shall be speaking in support of the petition today.”

12/4/16

Philippa Whitford to Call on UK Government to Follow Scotland’s Lead and Provide Comprehensive Support for People Affected with Contaminated Blood

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, will tomorrow (Tuesday) call on the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead during a debate on reforming the support arrangements for people infected with contaminated blood through the NHS in England.

The SNP’s Health Spokesperson at Westminster will use her speech to highlight the huge variation in the support available for those affected in Scotland and that available for those affected South of the Border.

During the 1970s and 1980s across the UK 4,700 people with bleeding disorders, such as haemophilia, and around 28,000 other people were exposed to Hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the NHS. Moreover, 1,200 people with bleeding disorders and 100 other individuals were infected with HIV. Many of those infected were babies and children, a number of whom, tragically, have since died.

Thus far, the UK Government has refused a Public Inquiry and has continued to provide inadequate ex gratia payments to just some of those affected in England, despite the fact that in March 2015 the Prime Minster promised to improve financial support for all those affected.

Proposals put forward by UK Government in January last year do not provide either the infected or the affected with a basic level of financial security. No-one will be better off and many claimants will be worse off. Indeed, many affected by this tragedy currently receive nothing and will continue to do so.

Speaking in advance of the debate, Dr Whitford said:

“Infected blood is one of the most terrible chapters in the history of the NHS but, while the SNP Scottish Government has committed to increasing support for those affected, the UK government is actually cutting funding for some victims of this scandal which may leave them thousands of pounds worse off every year.

“In addition to the £32 million already provided by the Scottish Government over the past ten years to the UK-wide scheme, the SNP Scottish Government has announced that funding over the next three years will increase to £20 million and markedly increase the financial provisions for all those infected with HIV or Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

“In overwhelming contrast to the work of the Scottish Government, the UK government’s approach to helping the victims of this scandal is wholly inadequate. It is not just the failure to provide decent financial support; while all patients with Hepatitis C in Scotland can access the newer anti-viral treatments, many patients in England are having to consider using their financial grants to fund their own drug treatment. This just adds insult to injury.

“The UK government must deliver a just and lasting settlement for the victims of the infected blood scandal and, in particular, their families. The financial support to bereaved partners in England is derisory and I hope that UK ministers will listen to the MPs, from all parties, who spoke today on this issue – including their own backbenchers – and act to put right this horrendous wrong.”

“On 25th March last year, both the Prime Minister and Scottish First Minister apologised and promised to provide support for all those infected and affected by Contaminated Blood. Nicola Sturgeon has honoured her commitment so I now call on David Cameron to keep his word.”

8/4/16

Local MP pledges to help charity raise awareness of screening  during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

As April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, is supporting the call by leading research charity Bowel Cancer UK, urging more people to take part in bowel cancer screening and help save lives.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, affecting both men and women. Every year over 41,000 people (one every 15 minutes) are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 16,200 people die of the disease.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives but, at the moment, in some areas of the UK only a third of those who receive a test complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Whitford said,

“As the local MP, I am totally committed to improving uptake rates for bowel cancer screening, both locally and nationally and I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it.

“Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early. If you are over 50, take the test when you receive it in the post. If you are younger, tell the people over 50 in your life to take the test. Early diagnosis really can save lives.”

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said,

“I’d like to thank Dr Whitford for supporting our campaign during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to raise participation levels for bowel cancer screening.

One in 14 men and one in 19 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime but it is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.”

The Scottish Bowel Screening Programme (and its equivalent in each of the home nations) can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat. Since its launch, it has been proven to save lives. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 50-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

Visit Bowel Cancer UK’s website to find out how you can get involved in their campaign for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, bowelcanceruk.org.uk.

23rd March 2016

Access to Medical Treatments Receives Royal Assent

Central Ayrshire MP and SNP Spokesperson for Health at Westminster, Dr Philippa Whitford, has today (Wednesday) welcomed the news that the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill has received Royal Assent after a long parliamentary journey.

The Bill aims to enable the creation of a database which will both collect and share information about new and existing innovative treatments carried out by registered medical practitioners. Importantly, the Bill further aims to ensure that the successes and failures of research are shared as well as raising awareness of lesser used treatments, particularly off-label drugs. These are older drugs which are no longer under patent and are, therefore, very inexpensive. In some cases, research has identified a role for them in treating conditions others than the ones for which they were designed. These drugs are essential for many patients and their potential is great, yet they are often under-used.

The impact of this should be to encourage and expedite the spread of good practice and flag up the results of research trials – negative as well as positive – which will help inform GPs when considering the best treatment for patients.

Commenting, Dr Whitford said:

“I am delighted that the Access to Medical Treatments Bill has received Royal Assent. Initially, the Access to innovative Medicines Bill caused real concern within the medical and research community with regards to the potential dangers of changes to litigation surrounding the use of untested treatments as in the original Bill. However, through cross-party working, I was pleased to amend the Bill to remove the sections which caused concern while maintaining the commitment to a database on research, new drugs and the new indications for older drugs which are no longer under patent.”

“The Bill gathered cross-party support during its journey through Parliament and after extensive debate and amendment could boast support from every Party present when it left the House of Commons. Its passage makes clear the appetite for encouraging medical innovation and supporting the use of off-label drugs.”

Ends.

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8th March 2016

MP Welcomes Local Pupil to Parliament for International Women’s Day

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, hosted a local school student at Westminster as part of International Women’s Day to promote greater equality for women in politics and the wider world.

Dr Whitford met up with Amy Cowan, a sixth year pupil from Greenwood Academy in Irvine, who was then able to attend and ask questions during a session of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, visit No. 10 Downing Street, and watch the International Women’s Day debate in Parliament.

During the debate, MPs discussed the motion “That this House expresses its solidarity with International Women’s Day; notes with concern that, despite women making up 51 per cent of society as a whole, more progress needs to be made in electing women to Parliament, as well as in establishing equal pay and parity between men and women in positions of leadership; and calls for greater action against FGM and other practices that are harmful to women”

Amy was one of 66 students from across the UK who took part in the programme, many of whom also participated in a workshop run by Frances Scott, founder of the 50:50 Parliament campaign, and her team looking at how more female representation in Parliament can be achieved.

MPs from the Conservative party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party all took part in the day.

Commenting, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to take part in the Parliament’s celebration of International Women’s Day and offer a local school pupil the chance to come to Westminster and spend a day sampling my life as an MP. It was great to see Amy and all the other young women taking part in Parliamentary business and bringing their energy and perspective to some of the key issues around gender and equality.”

Student Amy, who took part in the day, added:

“I was thrilled to win the opportunity to spend the day at Westminster with Dr Whitford and the other successful entrants. To see both the Parliament and No.10 up close was amazing but the highlight for me was definitely being able to sit on and ask a question of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, just as if I was an MP.

“It was great to see so many strong women actively involved in Parliament and I have no doubt the experience will help me as I look to my own future when I finish school in a few weeks time. I would highly recommend the programme and hope that all senior school girls with an interest in politics, or influencing change in their communities, will apply to take part in future years.”

Eastleigh MP Mims Davies, who led the debate in Parliament and organised the day for the MPs and students said:

“This has been an important day for women across the world and it has shown here in Westminster to all the students who came and to MPs too just what can be achieved and must be achieved if we are to have equality, not just in the numbers of women MPs, but also across the whole of society.”

PW&Amy_WM Hall
Philippa with Amy in Westminster Hall

24 February 2016

Dr Philippa Whitford MP for Central Ayrshire pledges support to help national military charity reach more vision impaired veterans

Dr Philippa Whitford MP has pledged to ensure that Armed Forces veterans will not have to battle blindness alone at a special parliamentary reception earlier this week, held at the House of Commons.

The reception, held on 23 February, was organised by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-Service men and women, to raise awareness of the charity and to encourage all local authorities to work with Blind Veterans UK to reach out to more veterans with severe sight loss so that they are able to access the Charity’s free services and support.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP joined over 30 MPs and peers including Mark Lancaster, Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Kevan Jones, Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, and Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, along with representatives from the military, local authorities, the NHS and other sight loss and military charities. They met with beneficiaries and staff of Blind Veterans UK to pledge their support to the charity’s beneficiary recruitment campaign.

The call for support from local authorities comes after it was found that of the 4000+ veterans Blind Veterans UK currently supports, almost a quarter of these struggled with severe sight loss for six years or more[1] before they found out about the support available from the Charity. In addition, new research from Blind Veterans UK estimates that currently there are 59,000 Armed Forces and National Service veterans battling severe sight loss, most of whom are missing out on the free, lifelong support of Blind Veterans UK[2].

Dr Philippa Whitford MP said: “As MP for Central Ayrshire, I am pleased to pledge my support to Blind Veterans UK by helping to ensure that no veterans in my constituency will have to battle blindness alone. It is vital we all work to honour the Armed Forces Covenant and make sure everyone who comes into contact with blind ex-Service men and women signpost them to Blind Veterans UK for free, lifelong support.”

PW_Blind Veterans UK

Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, Blind Veterans UK’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted that so many MPs and key representatives from local authorities, together with military and health professionals attended the event and have pledged their support to ensure that blind ex-Service men and women can enjoy a life beyond sight loss.

“We currently support over 4,000 blind ex-Service men and women and their families, but we know there are many more out there who need and deserve our support. This event is crucial in helping us spread the word about Blind Veterans UK. We want as many MPs, local authorities and health networks as possible to work in partnership with us so we can reach out to the many veterans in need of our support.”

If you are, or know of, a veteran with severe vision impairment and would like more information about Blind Veterans UK’s free, lifelong support go to www.noonealone.org.uk or call freephone 0800 389 7979.

[1] January 2015 postal survey of Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries conducted by Clarient Research

[2] Blind Veterans UK’s Survey of the vision impaired ex-Service population, 2015– 40

4/2/16

Local MP supports World Cancer Day 2016

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, attended an event in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday) to show her support for World Cancer Day today (4th February 2016).

Dr Whitford met with representatives from four of the UK’s leading cancer charities who are working together to unite the nation and help transform the lives of millions of people who are affected by cancer.

Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation are calling on people across Central Ayrshire to show their support by wearing a Unity Band with pride to mark World Cancer Day.

The Unity Band is made of two parts, knotted together, to represent strength in unity and the power of what can be achieved when people come together. They are available from each charity in their own colours at www.worldcancerday.co.uk for a suggested donation of £2.  All money raised from the Unity Bands will go towards the charities’ individual research projects and support services.

Speaking in support of the initiative, Dr Whitford said,

“To mark World Cancer Day, I’m calling on people across Central Ayrshire to join me in wearing a Unity Band, making a donation or spreading the word on social media.

“Sadly, one in two people born in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime. So, whether you want to celebrate people who have overcome cancer, show solidarity to those going through treatment, or remember loved ones, World Cancer Day is a chance to get involved and help reduce the impact of cancer on future generations.”

World Cancer Day MP_PW

28/1/16

Local MP Proud to Provide Cover for Breast Cancer Unit 

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Thursday) said she is glad to have been able to help out in the Breast Cancer Unit at Crosshouse Hospital over the Christmas period to provide cover for a former colleague who was ill.

In response to an article in today’s Daily Mail, which attacks Dr Whitford for working as a Consultant Surgeon whilst being a Member of Parliament, Dr Whitford has derided the piece for trying to suggest that should not respond to a call for assistance from the hospital in her own free time.

Commenting, Dr Whitford said,

“It is absolutely ludicrous to try and make an issue out of this. I worked five days in Crosshouse during my Christmas break to help ensure there was minimal disruption to patient clinics and planned surgery following a colleague taking ill. Given that I did this work in my own time, there was no effect on my constituents or y parliamentary duties.

“Since being elected, it has always been my aim to maintain my licence as a breast surgeon, which is common practice amongst medical professionals who are elected to political office, and is something the SNP is entirely comfortable with. Indeed, I believe it enhances the contribution I can make in my role as Front Bench Health Spokesperson. Whilst I hadn’t planned to work as many days as I have in such a short period, I am pleased that I was able to answer the call when it came.

“All the paid work I do outside of my Parliamentary role is registered in the MPs Register of Interests, which is available for anyone to view. It is just incredibly sad that a newspaper would insinuate that this work has somehow been carried out at the detriment to my constituents or purely for financial gain. Indeed, as I am part of the staff ‘Bank’ which provides temporary staffing, it is more cost effective for the Health Board than having to find an external locum or agency staff.”

Ms Liz Moore, Director of Acute Services at NHS Ayrshire & Arran said,

“Ms Whitford is a skilled and valued breast surgeon who remains with NHS Ayrshire & Arran on a bank contract basis. Ms Whitford was able to provide services for the benefit of patients in Ayrshire and Arran during the Christmas period due to unexpected consultant absence.”

14/1/16

Local MP Takes Prestwick’s Bid to Join the Space Race to Westminster

Captain James T. Kirk Welcomes the Debate

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Thursday) in Parliament promoted Prestwick’s bid to become the UK’s first space port. Opening the debate on UK Space Policy, which was secured by Dr Whitford herself to mark the occasion of astronaut Tim Peake’s space walk on 15th January, she used the opportunity to call on the UK Government to make the most of the huge potential there is to expand our space industry to reap the benefits of the economic, scientific, cultural and technological opportunities this could provide. Specifically, Dr Whitford hopes that Prestwick will be given the opportunity to play a leading role in any expansion.

Speaking after the debate Dr Whitford said,

“This is a hugely exciting time for space exploration with huge public interest, not least as a result of Major Tim Peake’s captivating mission to the International Space Station, and it is vital we make the most of this opportunity.

“His mission has captured the imagination of both children and adults alike – the Science Museum was packed on the day of the launch and Members in the House of Commons watched it live on screen. I sincerely hope it will lead to a greater interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), particularly amongst girls, and encourage more women to consider a career in the space industry.

“It is also important to engender a belief that the space industry here in the UK is indeed tangible and not just fantasy. Currently, the UK industry has a turnover of £11.8 billion with ambition for growth to £40 billion by 2030, potentially supporting a number of aerospace hubs and space ports across the country. Building and operating a spaceport at Prestwick would bring major investment and jobs to the local area and attract other space industry organisations and companies to Scotland in the longer term.

“Although there are a few viable options across the UK to be the first space port, I firmly believe Prestwick is best placed. It has many advantages over the other sites given its long runway, air traffic support, and clear weather conditions and I am certain that if the decision on where to site the space port wasn’t a political one then Prestwick would be the frontrunner.”

The debate has generated huge interest after ‘Captain James T Kirk’ from the Starship Enterprise sent a message welcoming the debate. Actor William Shatner said;

“Space is one of the last known frontiers; mostly untouched by mankind and his politics. In opening a debate on this subject, my hope is you take the tenets of Star Trek’s prime directive to universally and peacefully share in the exploration of it. I wish you all a wonderful debate. My best, Bill.”

Via the medium of Twitter, good wishes were also received from George Takei, Star Trek’s Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu. Welcoming their comments, Dr Whitford said:

“We contacted these Star Trek legends to let them know of the debate and they were kind enough to send us personal messages to welcome the debate in the House of Commons”

11/1/16

MP Reaffirms SNP Government’s Commitment to Nursing Bursaries

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Monday) reaffirmed the SNP Government’s commitment to protecting the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (NMSB) at existing levels for 2016/17. Dr Whitford’s comments come in response to a petition debate in Westminster on the removal of NMSB bursaries in England.

Speaking in advance of the debate, Dr Whitford said,

“The UK Government is intent on abolishing the NMSB in England, support which thousands of nursing students rely on to complete their studies and become the nurses and midwives of the future whom many of us will rely on for care in the years to come. The results of such a move could well prove to be a reduction in the number of those applying to study nursing and an increase in hardship of those of who do go on to study in this field, many of whom will have to take on additional work outside of their studies. Currently, nursing students in England are required to work in full-time placements for half their academic year, yet the proposals to remove their bursaries could see some students working up to 70 additional hours per week to earn their required income, not only jeopardising their studies but, potentially, patient care.

“Conversely, in Scotland, the NMSB provides all eligible students with a non-income assessed and non-repayable personal allowance of £6578 per year. In addition, students also have access to other income assessed allowances such as childcare. This package of support remains distinctive and generous by comparison with England where students are currently only offered £1,000 before means testing and, alongside our commitment to free tuition fees, is characteristic of the Scottish Government’s approach to student support. Our policy is in stark contrast with the actions of the UK Government which charges English students for their higher education. The UK Government is planning to remove free nursing tuition and bursaries, along with those for allied health professions such as physiotherapists, speech therapists and podiatrists, and replace them with maintenance and tuition loans.

“The SNP considers the National Health Service to be one of our most cherished public services and is investing a record £12 billion in health in Scotland. Although there is no doubt that there is pressure on our NHS but, by working with partners and investing in the future workforce, we can continue to ensure that our health service provides first class care for generations to come.”

 

29/12/15

Local MP Joins Boxing Day Revelers to Raise Funds for Clic Sargent

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, braved the elements alongside more than 200 hardy revelers to take part in Dip wi a Nip at Prestwick Esplande on Boxing Day. On a very dull and wet day, fundraisers from across Ayrshire and beyond travelled to take part in what is the 10th year of the event to help raise funds for children and young people with cancer, and their families.

Speaking after the Dip, Dr Whitford said,

“I am so impressed at the number of people who have taken part and I would like to say a bid “well done” to each and every one of them. Malcolm Sergeant House in Prestwick is such a wonderful facility, providing holidays for young people with cancer and their families during and after treatment, as well as other services such as bereavement weeks, and I am so pleased to have been able to help raise funds for the organisation.

“It was certainly an experience, but it was all over pretty quickly and it could certainly have been much colder given the mild weather we’ve been having for the time of year. As well as raising funds, I hope my participation will also encourage others to take part next year.”

Thus far, Dr Whitford’s efforts have raised over £1300 and there is still the opportunity to donate throughout January by visiting her Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/Dr-Philippa. Any support you can give is much appreciated.

17/12/15

Local MP Takes to the Skies with HMS Gannet

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, visited Gannet Search and Rescue on Friday (11th December) at their Prestwick base to see the facility in advance of it ceasing at the end of this year. Dr Whitford was given a tour of the base before taking to the skies with the SAR team.

Speaking after the visit, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Gannet SAR and see their operations up close, particularly as they are to cease on the 31st December. I was also thrilled to be given a flight around my constituency in of the Sea King helicopters. Despite very high winds, the ride was surprisingly smooth and it was fascinating to see Central Ayrshire from the air at close quarters.

“It is without doubt the most exciting thing I have done since being elected!

“Sadly, the SAR service will cease operation at Gannet at the end of this year and, although HMS Gannet remains, it raises concerns for the future of the base as a whole given that the search and rescue comprises such as large part of the overall operation. Gannet SAR has consistently been one of the busiest, if not the busiest SAR unit in the UK in recent years.

 The personnel and operations at HMS Gannet are part of fabric of our local community and over the years many serving naval officers and their families have fallen in love with Ayrshire and settled here, enriching our community. Long-term, we need to fight to keep it as an operating base in Prestwick.”

 

6/11/15

Local MP Urges Calm During Far-Right Group’s Demo

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, has today (Friday), urged for calm during a demonstration by the far-right group the Scottish Defence League (SDL) planned for next weekend in the village of Monkton against the temporary accommodation of Asylum Seekers in nearby hotel.

The Home Office is currently housing a number of Asylum Seekers in Adamton House Hotel for up to 20 working days whilst their applications for asylum are processed and longer-term accommodation can be found, outwith South Ayrshire.

In response to the planned protest, a counter demonstration, supported by a number of groups and individuals, has also been organised.

Speaking ahead of the protests, Dr Whitford said:

“I am aware of the planned demonstrations and would ask that all those attending do so peacefully and with respect for those who live in the village. I would also ask that the groups behind the protests refrain from using the kind of inflammatory language which has been spread across social media.

 “The individuals being accommodated are fleeing their own countries for fear of persecution and are being housed temporarily in South Ayrshire while their applications are being processed.

 “As I understand, they are all at stage two of the application process where their status is investigated. The have all had an initial screening and have also been health screened. However, they are not prisoners and are not being detained, and will be free to come and go from the Hotel.

 “There is no evidence that these people are criminals and, certainly, their application for asylum would be discarded if they were involved in any criminality here. As such, it is in their own best interests not to undertake any behaviour or action which would prejudice their application.

 “Nonetheless, I completely understand that the situation has roused concerns amongst some local residents because of the lack of information that has been available on the matter. I, myself, received no notification from the Home Office and was only informed via a briefing from South Ayrshire Council.

 “I have raised the lack of information and notification with the Home Secretary via letter as, sadly, rumour and conjecture have filled the void of accurate information. This, in turn, has allowed fear and anxiety to be stirred up and, unfortunately, has enabled a group like the SDL to use the situation for their own ends.

 “My letter also asks the Home Secretary to comment on the suitability of a place like Adamton, which is rural and has little access to local amenities without transport, as this has formed a large part of the concern raised.”

30/10/15

Central Ayrshire MP supports Pancreatic Cancer UK ahead of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

PW_PancreaticCancerUK

Dr Philippa Whitford MP, earlier this week (Tuesday 27 October), attended a cross-party event at the House of Commons organised by the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK to help raise awareness of pancreatic cancer ahead of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month this November.

There were nearly 8,800 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed across the UK in 2013, 742 of whom live in Scotland. Tragically, only four per cent of patients live for five years or more after diagnosis.

In addition to learning about these dreadful survival rates, Dr Whitford heard about the need for earlier diagnosis, more research funding and better access to new treatments for the disease, as well as the work being done by Pancreatic Cancer UK to fund its own research and provide support for patients and their families around the country.

Dr Whitford was joined by patients and family members of those affected by pancreatic cancer, as well as specialist nurses and representatives from Pancreatic Cancer UK. MPs were told about the many local supporters taking part in Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Purple Lights for Hope events on November 1st. Some have arranged for prominent local landmarks to be lit up purple, and others will be hosting smaller events at home or in their local communities.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of all cancer deaths in the UK and currently has the lowest survival rate of all the 21 common cancers.

Speaking in support of the awareness campaign, Dr Whitford said:

“I was delighted to attend this event organised by Pancreatic Cancer UK, to learn more about the work of the charity; the support and research it funds. Sadly, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer speaks for itself. I know there are many people within my constituency who have been touched by pancreatic cancer and we need to do more to improve awareness of the disease, and improve the shockingly low survival rates. This why I’m supporting the charity and its Purple Lights for Hope campaign as part of pancreatic cancer awareness month this November.”

Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK said:

We were delighted to welcome Dr Whitford to this important event and we thank her for her support in spreading the word about pancreatic cancer far and wide this November.

“It’s shocking that the number of people living for five years after diagnosis with pancreatic cancer is still just four per cent, and that figure has barely improved in the last 40 years. We know so little about the disease and so we all have a role to play in raising awareness of this dreadful cancer, so people know the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

“I would urge people to find out more about the disease today and to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, which include tummy pain, weight loss, yellow skin or eyes or itchy skin and oily floating poo, so they know to visit their GP if they have any concerns.”

For more information about pancreatic cancer, visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk

30/10/15 

Central Ayrshire MP to Champion Life-Saving Drugs Bill in Parliament

PW_Off Patent Drugs2

Local Breast surgeon turned MP, Dr Philippa Whitford, has vowed to help pass a new Bill through the UK Parliament, which could benefit hundreds of thousands of patients across the UK. The Off-patent Drugs Bill is designed to address the problem of drugs that are no longer under patent, but have since proved to have other clinical uses outside of their original licence, routinely available on the NHS.

The Bill is supported by Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, as, among its other benefits, it would improve access to two types of breast cancer drug; one which can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer developing; and another which can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading from the breast to the bones at which point it becomes incurable.

In pledging her support, Dr Whitford, who is a Breast Cancer Ambassador, joins MPs across the country intent on attending the second reading of the Bill on 6th November to take it a step closer to passing into law.

Commenting on the Bill, Dr Whitford said:

“As a breast cancer surgeon, I’ve seen at first hand the devastating impact breast cancer can have on women and their families. This Bill would ensure that patients in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, can access cheap but extremely effective treatments which could help prevent the disease spreading or even occurring in the first place, so I am determined to do all I can to ensure it becomes law.

“It is crucial that affordable treatments are used to their full potential, particularly at a time when NHS resources are stretched. This Bill will tackle this issue head-on and stands to benefit hundreds of thousands of people, not only in Central Ayrshire but across the whole of the UK.”

If a drug is shown to be useful for a new purpose after its original patent has expired, there is no incentive for a drug company to pay for the treatment to go through the licensing process or approval for use on the NHS. Without a licence to act as a ‘kitemark’ of treatment safety a drug is far less likely to be prescribed to patients. This results in effective and cheap treatments not being routinely available to those who need them. This Bill seeks to address this problem.

Speaking in advance of the Bill, Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“Thanks to research breakthroughs, huge advances have been made in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer and drugs are now more effective than ever before. But nearly 12,000 women are still dying from this disease each year in the UK, and too many effective treatments simply aren’t getting to patients.

“Some of the treatments this Bill could make available are capable of tackling breast cancer at both ends of the spectrum – preventing it from developing in the first place and stopping it from spreading and becoming incurable. Furthermore, the clinical benefits of some of these drugs go far beyond breast cancer which is why we need as much support as possible to bring this Bill into law.”

If passed, the Bill would place into UK law a duty on the government to step in and seek a license for a drug proven to be clinically effective for a new purpose, where no pharmaceutical company has plans to do so. This will mean that these drugs would be more likely to be made routinely available to patients.

The Bill already has the support of a number of charities, including the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cure Parkinson’s Trust, Alzheimer’s Society, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Breast Cancer Care, The Institute of Cancer Research, The Brain Tumour Charity, Prostate Cancer UK, Leukaemia CARE, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the George Pantziarka TP53 Trust.

Central Ayrshire MP ‘Wears it Pink’ to Promote Breast Cancer Awareness

Earlier this week (Wednesday) Dr Philippa Whitford MP took part in the Breast Cancer Now promotion for Wear it Pink day, which takes place on October 23rd. Along with many of her SNP colleagues, Dr Whitford donned various items of pink to help spread the word about the event, which forms part of the wider Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Speaking in support of the event, Dr Whitford said:

“Wear it Pink is a very simple but incredibly effective way of raising funds for further research into breast cancer. Schools, workplaces, clubs and organisations all readily take part, not only helping to raise funds but helping to raise awareness of the disease and the need for women to check themselves on a regular basis.

“Fortunately, many more women are surviving breast cancer but more than ever before are being diagnosed and the statistics that one in eight women in the UK will face breast cancer in their lifetime. Events such as Wear it Pink notably help improve the prognosis for these women through the research it funds, so please remember to Wear it Pink on 23rd October and, ladies, don’t forget to be Breast Aware!

Team WiP

18/9/15

PHILIPPA WHITFORD MP MAKES HEART FELT PLEA TO CHECK FOR EARLY SIGNS OF CHILDREN’S HEART PROBLEMS

Dr Philippa Whitford MP is calling on parents across Ayrshire to check for warning signs of possible heart problems in babies and follow life-saving guidance issued by the UK’s leading children’s heart charity.

The Central Ayrshire MP is supporting ‘Think HEART’, a campaign by the Children’s Heart Federation to increase the early diagnosis of children’s heart conditions.

Think HEART provides parents with five easy signs to help to spot a heart problem:

H – Heart Rate (Is their heart rate too fast or too slow? Normal rate is between 100 to 160 beats per minute)

E – Energy (Are they sleepy, quiet and too tired to feed?)

A – Appearance (Is your baby a pale, waxy, dusky, blue or grey colour?)

R – Respiration (Are they breathing too fast or too slow? Normal rate is between 40 to 60 breaths per minute)

T – Temperature (Are they cold to touch – particularly their hands and feet?)

Endorsing the campaign, Dr Whitford said.

“Every year, around 5,000 babies are born with Congenital Heart Disease, however only a third are detected before birth meaning that babies with harmful but treatable conditions are discharged from hospital without being diagnosed. Delays in diagnosis can cause distress, physical harm and even be life-risking for these babies.

 “This is why I want to encourage parents to look out for the five Think HEART signs to help identify a possible heart condition early”.

Anne Keatley-Clarke, Chief Executive of CHF says: “We are grateful for Dr Whitford’s support for our Think HEART campaign. We hope their encouragement alerts parents to the importance of checking their children’s heart condition and it gives them the confidence to raise the issue with their doctor or health professional.”

To get involved with the Think HEART campaign visit www.chfed.org.uk/thinkheart

PW_Think HEART

18/9/15

Philippa Whitford MP Supports the UK’s largest ever Blood Cancer Awareness campaign

Dr Philippa Whitford MP is supporting a national campaign by blood cancer charity Bloodwise, to coincide with Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September.

Thousands of giant billboards have been unveiled across the country as part of the UK’s largest ever blood cancer public awareness campaign, which are highlighting the fact that blood cancer is comprised of 137 individual diseases.

Every year in the UK 38,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer, with 14,000 people tragically losing their life. It is the UK’s third biggest cancer killer and combined blood cancer accounts for 1 in 10 of all new cancer diagnoses each year. Yet, despite claiming more lives in the UK each year than breast or prostate cancer, research undertaken by Bloodwise has revealed that many people have little or no knowledge about blood cancers.

Endorsing the campaign, Dr Whitford said:

“I am very pleased to give my backing to Bloodwise to help raise awareness of blood cancer. It is vital that both the public and politicians have a greater understanding of this type of cancer so that the necessary support exists for patients affected and their prognoses can be improved.”

Diana Jupp, Director of Patient Experience at Bloodwise, said:

‘‘It’s fantastic that Dr Whitford is showing her support for blood cancer patients and their families, and sharing the important messages of our campaign with constituents in Central Ayrshire.’’

“38,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer each year in the UK, yet very few people are familiar with the term “blood cancer”. Patients have told us that a lack of awareness has a significant impact throughout their patient journey – from confusion and uncertainty at diagnosis to being unaware of the organisations that provide the support and care they need.”

“This lack of awareness of one of the most common forms of cancer cannot be tackled overnight, and this campaign is the first step to addressing this problem. Increased political support is crucial if we are to improve outcomes for all patients affected by the 137 types of blood cancer.’’

Monday 23rd March 2015

Commenting on the Budget, Dr Philippa Whitford said:

“George Osborne’s latest budget has once again let down the people of Scotland. His budget could have focused on delivering economic growth by tackling inequality, instead he has decided to continue with his utterly failed austerity agenda.

“It is those with least in society who are paying the most for the Tory-led coalition’s obsession with austerity cuts.  But Scotland has an alternative with the SNP.

“Almost one in four children in Central Ayrshire are growing up in poverty. Two in three of these children have a working parent but zero hours contracts and low wages mean they are struggling.

“Austerity is sucking money out of our local economies – meaning local businesses struggle as no one has any spare money to spend, feeding into a vicious downward spiral.

“SNP plans would see up to £180 billion freed up to end austerity and invest; protecting and improving vital public services, like our NHS.  We can continue to tackle the deficit while taking the strain off those who have been hit the hardest by austerity – but only if the SNP have a strong team forcing progressive politics on to the agenda at Westminster.

“Labour’s tired old claims that only a vote for Labour can kick out the Tories simply doesn’t wash anymore – look what happened in 2010.  Scotland needs strong voices at Westminster, not the usual suspects from the Scottish Labour branch office making up the numbers.”