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It is an honour to follow Mike Wood. I think the whole House wishes him all the best of health in the future, having recovered from that terrible illness.
I congratulate all the staff at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust because, for the second time in a row, they have received a rating of outstanding from the CQC. I have to declare an interest, as members of my family work for the trust, but it was great news to know that the organisation is providing outstanding services to my constituents, despite all the cuts that have been imposed over the years.
I must turn from a message of congratulations to the trust to complaining to the Government about an issue that people have already highlighted: the problem being faced by all those who desperately need access to medical cannabis, including my constituent, Lara Smith, who is known to people in here for courageously highlighting the problems she has faced in recent years in accessing the medicine Bedrocan.
Lara was a paediatric nurse and a county fencing coach before her health deteriorated because of cervical and lumber spondylosis. She has been on 35 different medications and had several operations for her condition. Unfortunately, she has been left with permanent nerve damage, limited mobility and a constant tremor in her right hand. Her quality of life has been impaired, not just because of her medical condition, but, particularly, because of the drugs she was prescribed for it.
Lara’s pain management consultant prescribed her Bedrocan and the transformation was such that she was able to come off all her other medications, but the downside is that she can access the drug only by travelling to a Dutch pharmacy to collect it. That is an expensive, arduous journey by ferry, which she makes every three months and has done so for four years. She always notifies the UK Border Agency of all the details it needs to know of her prescription and travel details, but, sadly, and most embarrassingly for her, on her last trip she was pulled aside by the agency, which wanted to check her medication. Of course, she was mortified and she worries it might happen again.
Lara’s message to the Minister is that she is more than fed up with having to travel 300 miles to a Dutch pharmacy to get her medication. Can the Minister give her any reassurance that things will change soon, as he promised when he met patients’ families from the End Our Pain campaign in March this year? Access to medical cannabis was legalised last November, so why has nothing has happened to help patients since then?
I also wish to thank Dr Azzabi and the all the staff at the northern cancer care centre who have looked after my husband Ray since he was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer four years ago. I give special thanks to the staff on ward 36, who are now seeing him through his chemotherapy. Ray was very lucky because when he was diagnosed he received instant treatment, which was a massive blessing for us. However, other cancer patients are not so lucky, and once they are diagnosed—a terrible blow to the family—as we know from the targets, treatment is now taking longer and longer. It is hard enough to be diagnosed with cancer, but knowing you have to wait for your treatment is unbearable.
Our staff in the health service are under pressure and services are lacking. Our precious health service deserves more. I hope that the Government will heed all the messages today and have taken note.