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Support for Life-shortening Conditions — [Andrew Percy in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:46 am on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 9:46 am, 7th June 2016

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate Stuart Andrew on clearly outlining the case and how we all feel about this important subject. I apologise in advance for not being here to hear the shadow Minister and the Minister—I have apologised to them both. I have to attend the Select Committee on Defence, otherwise I would look forward to hearing what they have to say.

This issue is important to me, as it is to the hon. Member for Pudsey and others in the Chamber, which is why we are here. We are here to represent our people and their viewpoints on issues that they want to be debated. There are Members here with personal stories, some of which we have heard before, and I look forward to hearing some of those stories again.

Life-shortening conditions are those for which there is no reasonable hope of cure and from which children are expected to die, or for which curative treatment may be feasible but can fail. Children with life-shortening conditions need continuing palliative care throughout the trajectory of their illness. As I always do in Westminster Hall and in the House, I will give a Northern Ireland perspective. The Minister knows that health is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, and I will therefore add to the debate and the knowledge we all have by addressing some of the positive things we are doing in Northern Ireland. By sharing knowledge from across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland we have an opportunity to enhance and enrich our lives and to help ourselves to do things.

In Northern Ireland alone there are currently estimated to be some 1,300 children and young people living with life-shortening conditions. Many of those children have extremely complex and unpredictable conditions, and they are under the pressure of requiring round-the-clock care seven days a week. Due to medical advances and improved care, that prevalence is growing and more of those children are living into adulthood.

David Simpson referred to families and how important it is for children under pressure and in need of medical assistance to have family support. It is about their parents, their siblings, their grandparents, their family circle and their friends coming together to give support and help at the right time. Because the proportion of young people and children in the Province with life-shortening conditions is less than 1%, people might be inclined to believe that they are an underfunded and perhaps neglected section of the population, but fortunately they would be wrong. More can always be done, but in Northern Ireland the work to support young people and children affected by life-shortening conditions has been positive and is ongoing.

Health may be a devolved matter, and this debate may be most pertinent to NHS England, but such conditions affect British children across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is therefore important to make such points. It is important to link the work of Government institutions across the United Kingdom to determine what is best practice and what is not, and to share ideas on the way forward. Hopefully this debate will give us an opportunity to do just that.