Lyn Brown MP

Member of Parliament for West Ham


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I spoke during the House of Commons Opposition Day debate on Junior Doctors Contracts on the 28th October 2015. Speech below.

Countless junior doctors have been in touch with me to say that they are worried and in despair about the Government’s threat to impose an unfair contract on them. They tell me that the dangerously long hours that the contract will introduce will be a threat to patient safety. Doctors tell me that rostered hours are not a realistic gauge of total working hours, and that reducing them will not prevent dangerous increases in working time.

Sofia, an anaesthetist in my constituency, says:

“A ‘normal’ rostered day starts at 7.45am and finishes at 5.45pm. In reality there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ day, because the clock strikes 5.45pm and it is impossible to walk out the door with an operation ongoing.”

Doctors like Sofia are content to work longer hours out of a sense of duty, but they are deeply concerned by plans to remove the financial penalties placed on hospitals to prevent dangerously long hours. She describes the Health Secretary's assurances as follows:

“It’s a bit like trying to stop speeding on a busy road by lowering the speed limit, but at the same time getting rid of all the speed cameras, police and speeding fines.”

What does all this mean for patient safety? I was contacted by another doctor, Keir, a paediatrician in a neonatal intensive care unit in West Ham. He cannot see how his team could be spread more thinly during the week in order to provide more doctors on Saturdays. He is rightly concerned that doctors would be at risk of exhaustion. He says:

“High intensity specialties are particularly affected from a safety point of view. You don’t want any delay putting a three-month premature baby on life support. Putting in a breathing tube, getting a tiny line into tiny veins—all require skill and concentration. Any tiredness affects the swiftness and accuracy of these procedures.”

Doctors like Keir are aghast at what the Government are telling them.

Doctors are also deeply disheartened by the Government’s handling of the new contracts. One doctor, Simi, has told me:

“The mood is grim in hospital at the moment. We feel under-appreciated and undervalued. We are not being misled by the BMA. We can read the facts and analyse them for ourselves.”

Whatever the Health Secretary has said today, it is evident that some doctors will lose out financially. This uncertainty over pay is causing anxiety. Sofia says:

“Come August 2016, I have no idea how much I will be paid, whether I will be able to afford to pay my bills or even spend time with my children.”

I agree with Oliver, another West Ham doctor, who says:

“Not one doctor should be taking home less pay than they do now.”

This will have serious consequences for staff retention. Doctors are making plans to leave the NHS. Nick, a medical student in West Ham, says:

“I studied medicine to become not just a doctor but an NHS doctor. Under the proposed contract, I’ll be left in the sad situation of being forced elsewhere.”

That will be this Health Secretary’s legacy. Kirsty, a histopathologist, says:

“The health secretary has been nothing but belittling and demeaning. He has suggested we have lost our sense of vocation. Imposing a contract on us and treating us like children rather than professionals is so wearing.”

We trust these doctors with our lives and with our loved ones. Our NHS staff are truly phenomenal. They deserve nothing but the utmost respect, and they certainly do not deserve to have an unfair, unjust contract imposed upon them. The people in this country love the NHS. For their sake, the Government must put forward fair proposals, withdraw the threat of contract imposition and return to negotiations with the BMA.

Junior Doctors' Contracts House of Commons speech

I spoke during the House of Commons Opposition Day debate on Junior Doctors Contracts on the 28th October 2015. Speech below.

The Tory Party conference in Manchester was an unedifying spectacle.

David Cameron announced in the General Election that he will serve only two terms. So, we saw wannabee Prime Ministers, strutting their arrogant stuff in front of the party faithful, endless corporate lobbyists and the media.

They’re already measuring the curtains for Downing Street. Boris Johnson played the fool, hoping laughter would obscure his dismal record in improving the lot of ordinary Londoners. The lack of affordable housing makes his unforgiveable failure all too clear.

George Osborne grotesquely declared himself the workers’ friend, whilst confirming his plans to slash tax credits for working families. Three million households will lose £1,000 a year; so much for Cameron’s promise on TV during the election, that there would be no change.

For me, the most revolting spectacle of all was Theresa May’s speech. She milked her applause from proposals to close Britain’s borders to refugees fleeing for their lives from persecution. How very chilling; Theresa May would trample all over desperate people to grab the top job.

The Institute of Directors, not a left wing organisation by anyone’s standards, said it was “astonished by the Home Secretary’s irresponsible rhetoric,” accusing her of pandering to anti-immigration sentiment and putting internal party politics ahead of the interests of the country.

Mrs May will be a frequent feature of the Commons Chamber throughout the autumn and beyond. She has five Bills going through Parliament, covering immigration, counter-terrorism, security, extremism and drugs. I fear that each Bill will degenerate into a call to the party faithful to elect her as their new leader.

I am now a member of the Shadow Home Office team and will do my bit to ensure these Bills benefit the country and not just Theresa May’s unbridled ambition.

I fear politics is about to get even uglier.

Tory Conference - October 2015

The Tory Party conference in Manchester was an unedifying spectacle.

On the 11th of September 2015, I spoke against the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill in the House of Commons during the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill second reading debate. You can read my speech below.

I am afraid that I cannot support this Bill. My concern is that we will fundamentally change the way that our society thinks about and deals with the terminally ill, severely disabled people and the vulnerable, troubled and elderly.

My mum died suddenly and unexpectedly, riddled by cancer, but I know that my mum, faced with a terminal prognosis in a world where there was the possibility of state-assisted suicide, acceptable and accepted by society, would have tormented herself during her last months with the question of when she should ask for that button to be pressed. She would have worried about the stresses that my sister and I would have endured, she would have worried about the weight of her care being shouldered by the nurses and the doctors, and she would have been anxious that folk would think that she was consuming too many resources, selfishly staying alive, costing money, when she could and should just die.

My mum was not vulnerable. She was not alone or a depressive. She was dearly loved; and yet I know that the mere existence of legal and assisted suicide would have placed an enormous burden on her. But what of those without a loving family? What of those elderly people—let’s face it, they do exist—with families more interested in the cost of care, and its impact on their dwindling inheritance, than the priceless gift of life? Would not some of my more vulnerable constituents think that they ought to take a course of action because it is available and despite the safeguards in the Bill, which I acknowledge have been carefully crafted? Can we be absolutely sure that they would not be pressured into it?

It is naive to believe that we can prevent an elderly, expensive or asset-rich relative being encouraged, coerced or emotionally blackmailed into taking their own life. And if just one person makes that decision to end their life as a result of such pressure, that would be a tragedy.

This Bill seeks to provide the right to assistance in dying only to those who are terminally ill. I believe supporters of the Bill have real integrity and do not intend its scope to be extended further. But if the Bill is passed, I believe that its scope will be extended, partly by case law, to apply to more people. Holland introduced assisted dying for the terminally ill in 2002. Initially, hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia sought suicide. Now, just 13 years later, assisted suicide is sought and granted to elderly, lonely or bereaved people. Pressure for doctors to accede to requests comes from patients and relatives, as I believe it will here.

I am against this Bill because I worry that the mere existence of the process of assisted dying will make the vulnerable more vulnerable. It will change fundamentally the relationship between a patient and a doctor, and I oppose it most strenuously, because I think it will fundamentally, slowly but inexorably, change our society’s attitude to death and the dying, with a creeping invidious expectation that our elderly, infirm or disabled should take themselves out of the igloo of old, and die a dignified death, leaving the young, fit and able unencumbered by their burdensome, difficult, messy, expensive, pain-filled and challenging lives.

Life is precious. But the virtues in a society that set it apart as wholesome, decent and ethical are those which nurture and value that life. They are the qualities of tolerance, understanding, forbearance and, dare I say it, love, which are such precious commodities. They engender and sustain compassion and ensure a growing humanity, a more civilised society for the living, that shields and truly values life.

Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill Speech 11th September 2015

On the 11th of September 2015, I spoke against the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill in the House of Commons during the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill second reading debate. You can...

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