Column: Breast Cancer Screening

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 5th July: Last week down in Westminster I asked the Government in the House of Commons to make time for a discussion on what more we can do to tackle breast cancer. And since then, I’ve applied for my own parliamentary debate on the issue. Rates are rising rapidly, and one in seven women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime. It’s more common in women than men, but there was around 55,000 people diagnosed in total in 2015 alone. As the most common cancer in the UK, it’s so important we do everything we can to tackle it. Part of an effective approach against breast cancer is early diagnosis. Catching the disease as early as possible gives people the best chance of cure and increases survival rates. Some breast cancers are first spotted by women, but most will be caught by screening. And a resident of Barnsley is calling for the NHS’ screening programme to be extended to allow more women to access mammograms that could be lifesaving. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 46, 4 years below the age required to take part in the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Despite this devastating news, she has launched a petition which has over 26,000 signatures across the country – including over 1,000 from here in Barnsley. I have so much admiration for her as she bravely uses her experience to push for progress and ensure nobody else is forced to endure the same. So that’s why I took her message to Parliament, and called on the Government to hold a debate on this issue so we can properly discuss the medical evidence and decide what more can be done to increase early diagnosis. There are other issues affecting cancer rates. Around one in every four cancers is fully preventable simply by virtue of lifestyle change and being as healthy as possible, for example. But some simply aren’t, and where prevention is impossible early diagnosis is vital. A discussion on the medical evidence and what more we can do to increase instances of early diagnoses is, to put it simply, a matter of life and death for many. I hope we’ll have the opportunity for this conversation in Parliament soon.    

Meeting with South Yorkshire Police and local councillors

I had a productive meeting with Chief Superintendent Scott Green and Rockingham and Hoyland councillors.We discussed a range of issues, including the ongoing PCSO review and the need for a permanent police base in Hoyland.

Questioning the Government on breast cancer screening

We must do everything we can to detect cancer, support early diagnosis, and give people the best chance possible of cure. Following my constituent’s brave campaign after her own diagnosis, I recently asked the Government to make time for a discussion on the evidence surrounding lowering the age of involvement in the NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme: can watch my question in Parliament here.

Armed Forces Day

Today marks Armed Forces Day, following a week of events giving our thanks to the service personnel up and down the UK and further even afield who are serving their country, alongside their families who support them in doing so. From safety and security, to peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, the British Armed Forces are the most effective in the world. Our Armed Forces are built on an unparalleled culture and ethos, one I’ve been fortunate enough to see first-hand over the last year. As a member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many of our armed forces personnel in a range of roles over the last year. From visits to training at Catterick, the infantry Battle School in Brecon, and the Army Foundation College amongst others, I’ve been fortunate to see the hard-work that goes on behind the scenes to make our Army battle-ready. And more recently, too, I’ve seen the impact of the army on our community. Two weeks ago, I attended the unveiling of a memorial bench in Cudworth. It marked the loss of those brave local men who answered the call and enthusiastically signed up to defend their country in the Great War. They joined up in droves, but alongside their friends and family the Barnsley Pals witnessed indescribable devastation as they were killed in their hundreds at The Somme. Whilst those experiences have slipped slowly out of living memory, armed forces personnel both serving and long retired came together around that bench in Cudworth to commemorate the losses of the past it resides there to remember. This week I attended the ceremonial flag raising in Barnsley town centre to mark the start of this important Armed Forces Week. In doing so, I repeated our commitment to service personnel currently operating within our forces in doing everything we can to support them as they serve. This means ensuring prompt physical and mental health support for those who need it, improving the living standards in areas like accommodation and housing that serving personnel deserve, and a greater consistency in implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant. And aside from those personnel currently serving, I was fortunate enough to visit Sandhurst last week and meet the army’s leaders of the future. Amongst them was Worsbrough’s Ryan Francis, a young man who does his community proud. He and others like him are learning about that ethos and culture now and will be its custodians for the next generation. And it is for all of these people; those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice, those who do serve and to whom we owe so much, and those learning to serve who will maintain the high standards of the British forces for years to come, that we mark Armed Forces Day. So to them I take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’, and reiterate the promise support them in their role for which this country owes them such a substantial debt of gratitude.    

Barnsley Train Restoration

I recently met Peter from the Hull & Barnsley Stock Fund Group, who are working on preserving the original rolling stock of the Hull, Barnsley & West Riding Junction Railway. They’re looking for more volunteers to help with the project – carpenters or anyone with an interest who would like to get involved. Read more about the history of the trains below, and get in touch if you would like to know more! The Hull & Barnsley Stock Fund Group are currently restoring and preserving the last remaining rolling stock of the Hull, Barnsley & West Riding Junction Railway. They are aiming to restore the remaining three coaches and run them on their heritage railways again. Once complete, they also want to bring pleasure to and educate visitors to the last private railway ever built in Britain. The group are looking for volunteers who are skilled woodworkers to help breathe life back into the coaches again. Opened in 1885, the Hull, Barnsley & West Riding Junction Railway was the last substantial completely new railway built in Britain. Intended to break the monopoly of the North Eastern Railway, it was built at a cost of almost £6m to carry coal directly from the Yorkshire pits to the railway's own dock on the River Humber. Passenger trains ran from Hull's Cannon Street station to Cudworth on the Midland Railway mainline to London. From 3 October 1905 until 1917 there was a through express service to Sheffield over the Midland Railway. Closure came gradually from 1932 when the Cudworth to Howden passenger service ended. South Howden lost its remaining passenger sevice from 1 August 1955. The line between Wrangbrook and Little Weighton was closed on 6 April 1959, and the Little Weighton to Springhead section saw its last goods train on 3 July 1964. Following the discovery that Coach 58 had survived in Hull, it was bought by the Hull & Barnsley Railway Stock Fund's founder members in 1968. Two coal wagons were purchased from the Tyne Commissioners in 1968. Coach 40 was located in York the following year. Engineers' tool van 2 came from Hull in 1974, when it was the oldest vehicle at still work on British Rail. Our rolling stock is now at Goathland on the North York Moors Railway.

Free Nazanin

Today I visited the Iranian embassy to show my love, solidarity and support for Richard Ratcliffe who is bravely on hunger strike in support of his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Attending the flag raising ceremony for Armed Forces Day

I’ve always been a proud supporter of our armed forces, so it was an honour to attend the flag raising ceremony in Barnsley this morning, as we mark the start of Armed Forces Day celebrations – a fantastic opportunity to show our support for service personnel and veterans here in Barnsley and around the country.It was good to chat to Mr Thomson and other members of the local Royal British Legion.

Taking part in the Run for Jo

It was wonderful to be in Birstall for the 6.5K cross country Run for Jo with Tracey Brabin.A huge well done to everyone who took part, all the organisers & GMB Yorkshire & North Derbyshire for sponsoring.It was really lovely to meet Jo’s family and see so many people there to remember Jo.

Campaigning for improved breast cancer screening

My constituent Susan was sadly diagnosed with breast cancer last October, at the age of just 46. Currently, women are invited for regular mammograms from the age of 50. Susan is now pushing for this to be lowered to 30, something I wholeheartedly support. Please do sign Susan's petition here. I’ll be writing to the Secretary of State for Health about this issue, and I’ll be looking to raise it directly with the Government in Parliament next week.

Barnsley Youth Choir 10th anniversary celebration

I had a fantastic afternoon at the amazing Barnsley Youth Choir 10th anniversary celebration.Over 550 voices from across the country and the world coming together to celebrate with a brilliant BYC international festival.A huge well done to everyone in the choir and the wonderful Mat Wright.