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On Thursday 10 January, I asked Jeremy Hunt what kind of explanation he could possibly give to a cancer patient who had her operation postponed due to the terrible pressures our NHS has been under this winter.

PhD student Carly O'Neill wrote movingly in the Guardian about how her operation has been rescheduled for February because there simply were no beds in the hospital for her to recover after the operation.

This is a scandal. I know from my own experience that the prospect of a cancer operation is scary enough, without having uncertainty about whether or not it will even take place. As Carly wrote: "Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with."

Jeremy Hunt claims that NHS England's guidance was clear - that cancer operations should not be postponed as they are so critical for recovery. But if NHS staff are pushed to their limit and there are no beds left for patients, then it is clear that something is going badly wrong. The Health Secretary and the government must get a grip on this crisis. Making patients like Carly wait in continued uncertainty is utterly unacceptable.

In his response, Jeremy Hunt invited me to let him know about individual cases of patients who have been affected. So if you live in Bristol West and have had a cancer operation cancelled or postponed over this winter, or if you've had any other treatment that has been delayed, please do let me know so I can raise this directly with the government. You can contact my office via email at thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk.

 

Thangam Debbonaire

I have to intervene. I had treatment and an operation for cancer. If my operation had been cancelled, I would have been able to come to this House and ask the Secretary of State personally to intervene, but I am speaking today on behalf of Carly O’Neill, who went to the press to talk about her cancer operation. What explanation does the Health Secretary have to give Carly O’Neill and other cancer patients for their operations being cancelled?

Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)

I say, very directly, that the instructions from NHS England could not have been clearer that cancer operations should not be cancelled, because they are deemed to be urgent. From the perspective of the Government and NHS senior leadership, such cancellations ​are not acceptable. If the hon. Lady knows of individual cases, she should raise them with me and we will look into the matter. It is precisely because we want to preserve capacity for people who need it the most that we have taken these difficult decisions.

You can watch the exchange here:

 

NHS Winter Crisis

On Thursday 10 January, I asked Jeremy Hunt what kind of explanation he could possibly give to a cancer patient who had her operation postponed due to the terrible pressures...

Thangam DebbonaireOne of the best things about representing this constituency in Parliament is how engaged and informed residents in Bristol West are on a host of issues. Lobbying and questions from you directly inform the work that I do in Parliament. So I wanted to start 2018 by writing about how you can both follow the work I'm doing as your MP, and how you can get in touch to raise issues with me that are important to you.

Following what I’m doing as your MP

The best place to read about what I’m doing as your MP is my website. This also has links to other useful sites, such as Hansard (where you can find records of everything I’ve said in Parliament) and the written parliamentary questions page (where you can find everything I’ve asked a minister).

You can follow my voting and speaking record on various independent websites such as TheyWorkForYou and Public Whip. These are not always entirely accurate in the way they summarise or describe specific votes so if you’re not sure about something, do email.

You may want to follow me on Twitter (@ThangamMP) or Facebook (Thangam Debbonaire for Bristol West) as well.

Keeping in touch with your MP

Bristol West is one of the most engaged constituencies in the country and I’m proud that we regularly top the charts for emails and petition clicks using the Parliamentary and other petition websites. But there are lots of ways to keep in touch.

Have a chat when you see me out and about: Lots of you do this and I love to chat, so do stop me if you see me out and about.

Labour doorknock: As you may know, teams of Labour councillors, volunteers and I go out and knock on doors in different parts of Bristol West almost every weekend on Friday lunchtimes, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, all year round, whether or not there is an election. This is so that you get to tell me what you think I need to know, so that we can pick up information about what is happening in local neighbourhoods, and to make sure you know when I can help with individual problems.

Email: Some of you also email me or click on petitions (on parliamentary and other petition websites) to let me know how you feel about something. Because of the volume of emails I do have to prioritise, but my team and I always try to answer every single email eventually.

Constituency surgery appointments: I hold regular constituency surgeries for people to speak to me about casework and policy. Very often my caseworkers and I can help you without you needing to come to an appointment, but sometimes this is helpful. Appointments are 20 minutes long – we can get a lot done in that time. Please email to arrange an appointment and one of my staff will get in touch to find out more from you about the situation or question. This will help me to prepare and help you to get the most out of the appointment.

Public meetings: I hold regular public meetings for constituents to be able to hear directly from me and to ask questions and make suggestions. Over the last year I have held several meetings on the topic of the UK’s relationship with the EU as this is the subject you ask me about most often. I will continue to hold these – the next meeting is at Redland Park United Reform Church on Saturday 27 January at 2pm. I’ll be joined by Nigel Costley from TUC South West, with other speakers to be confirmed. Book your place here.

Visits to schools, businesses, university departments and other organisations: On my constituency days (usually Thursday evening, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and sometimes other weekdays during parliamentary recess) I visit as many organisations as I can. If you’d like me to visit your school, place of work, or voluntary organisation do get in touch.

Casework: While I do not have a magic wand, there are some things I can do to help with individual problems involving national or local government departments. I have two highly experienced caseworkers to help me to do this.

This could be part of an immigration process (in the first instance you need to get legal advice and we will always advise this), a difficulty with the tax and benefit offices or any government department. If you have a problem with the Council we would always recommend that in the first instance you take the matter up with them directly. As your MP I can usually at least find out what stage your process has got to and ask for the problem to be fully investigated. It always helps if you can email the key facts and include a phone number for us to call you back for further information. Email is always best, but if you know someone who needs my help and does not use email, please pass on my constituency office phone number: 0117 379 0980.

Policy questions: Sometimes the problem has passed but you want me to know about it to try to change the system, or you don’t have a specific problem but have identified something which is not right about policy. This could be on access to mental health support, or housing, or healthcare for example, or it could be about government or Labour Party policy on something specific such as school funding. I have various things I can do to help shine a light on a problem, or challenge the government to change or explore further whether a policy needs to change. This could be with a written parliamentary question (MPs can question government ministers on anything and this is in the public domain); or by trying to ask a question in one of the daily ministerial oral question times (every government minister, not just the Prime Minister, has to do these on a rota); or applying for a short debate in Parliament; or writing to, or meeting with, the minister privately.

My Facebook page: please ‘like’ or ‘follow’ my Facebook page Thangam Debbonaire MP for Bristol West to get regular updates from me in Parliament and in Bristol.

Facebook live video: During parliamentary sessions I try to do one 45-minute Facebook live video session each week, usually on a Monday evening about 7.15pm, from my Thangam Debbonaire MP for Bristol West Facebook page. You can type in your question and give your views and I will answer as many as possible. I then upload the video so you can watch it later.

Visiting Parliament: You may not be aware but a lot of the parliamentary estate is open to the public. You can watch debates or question time sessions (with the exception of Prime Minister’s Questions, which requires tickets to gain entrance) when Parliament is sitting. Full details are available on the UK Parliament website. On Saturdays, or when Parliament is in recess, you can also book a tour – again, full details are available on Parliament’s website. I’m always happy to try and meet Bristol West residents visiting Parliament if the diary allows. If you can give me plenty of notice before you visit I can try and meet you during your visit. Sadly the packed parliamentary diary means this isn’t always possible but do get in touch and I will do my best!

Private messages and calling my mobile: I am rarely able to respond to these methods of contact in real time as I have to represent you in the Chamber, in meetings and in other activities. Please try to use email wherever possible when you want to contact me.

And finally…

I am really honoured to serve a constituency which likes to engage so much with the political process. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to keep informed, and to keep me informed.

 

Keeping in touch in 2018

One of the best things about representing this constituency in Parliament is how engaged and informed residents in Bristol West are on a host of issues. Lobbying and questions from...

I’ve always had an interest in drugs policy, but my concern about the impact of drugs, and our drug laws, reached new levels when I became an MP two years ago.

My constituency office is in a part of central Bristol where the effects of alcohol and other drugs are plain to see. On the worst days, the view from my office window is very upsetting. Several times I’ve found needles or comatose people on my office doorstep and had to call the emergency services.

I’ve heard from people in my constituency addicted to illegal and legal drugs and from parents exasperated at the lack of support for addicts. I’ve heard from those who use recreational drugs responsibly, and from many who want to see the legalisation and regulation of drugs – especially cannabis for medicinal use. People have told me about drug dealers causing problems in their neighbourhoods or having to keep their children from playing in certain parks, or even their own gardens, because of drug litter.

It’s why I agreed to take part in the groundbreaking BBC documentary series Drugsland. It allowed me time to analyse how drugs affect not just those using alcohol and other drugs, or their families and friends, but all of us. Throughout the filming process I’ve reflected on what I was learning and considered the implications for public policy.

I’ve met drug treatment specialists and people in treatment. I’ve been briefed by leading researchers and by clinicians developing testing facilities so people can find out what’s in the substance they intend to take. I’ve discussed drugs with policy makers in local and national government.

No consumption of any illicit or legal drug, including alcohol, is completely safe. In fact, alcohol is one of the most dangerous – to the people drinking it, and to others. But because many people will always want to consume alcohol or another drug at least occasionally, I want to focus on protecting people from harm and reducing risks. Taking part in this documentary has convinced me that our drug laws are contradictory and dangerous and not protecting anyone. It’s time for reform. 

I appeared in episode four: The Fix and I'm very grateful for all the supportive comments I've received since the programme appeared online and was first broadcast on BBC1 on 19 December. 

Taking part in Drugsland

I’ve always had an interest in drugs policy, but my concern about the impact of drugs, and our drug laws, reached new levels when I became an MP two years...

Thangam Debbonaire became Member of Parliament for the Bristol West constituency in May 2015 and was re-elected at the General Election on 8 June 2017 with an increased majority of 37,366. 

You can contact Thangam by email on thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk. 

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