Lord Polak debates involving the Department of Health and Social Care

There have been 7 exchanges involving Lord Polak and the Department of Health and Social Care

Thu 19th November 2020 Brain Tumour Research (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (133 words)
Wed 2nd September 2020 Covid-19: Self-isolation Payment Scheme (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (30 words)
Wed 1st July 2020 Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (56 words)
Tue 19th May 2020 Mental Health Services (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (124 words)
Wed 20th June 2018 National Health Service: Mental Health Funding (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (105 words)
Tue 4th April 2017 Hospitals: Patient Transport (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (135 words)
Thu 9th June 2016 National Clinical Director of Adult Neurology (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (90 words)

Brain Tumour Research

Lord Polak Excerpts
Thursday 19th November 2020

(5 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I have a table of all the brain tumour research projects that we have backed over the last 10 years and I would be very glad to share it with the noble Baroness in correspondence. The short answer is, not enough. I would like there to be more grants and of higher value, but I recognise the challenge. When I speak to the scientists—even Richard Gilbertson, who is a very measured practitioner in this area—they recognise that more work needs to be done at an earlier stage to ensure that they are the kinds of projects that the NIHR system can back. We need to have a conversation about how we can encourage the early-stage science and the creative drafting of fresh ideas for that pipeline. That is something that I am very keen to get on with and have a dialogue about.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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I, too, was privileged to be present when Baroness Jowell spoke. In 1988, a 27 year-old man whose wife was eight months pregnant and who had just completed the London Marathon, was told by a neurologist that he had a brain tumour and six months to live. My Lords, that young man was me. I thank God and the doctors and nurses at the Royal Free Hospital that I am here to tell this story.

What is being done to educate and work with families and loved ones, who take the brunt of providing support for the patient and who most likely have no medical knowledge? While the Minister will be aware that not all brain tumours are cancerous, can he explain the Government’s commitment to fighting this niche but deadly form of cancer?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of everyone, I thank my noble friend for that powerful personal testimony. I am sure there will be many others in the Chamber or listening who have known or lived through some association with brain cancer or cancer of some kind. It is extremely gratifying that in many areas of cancer we have made enormous progress—to the extent that it is a completely treatable disease in many respects—but in the area of brain cancer, that is not true. That is not good enough and we are working on trying to find a solution. Money has been spent, but not enough. We need more focus on this.

On my noble friend’s point on supporting families, that is something that trusts work on, but it is left to the charities and support organisations to do. In all areas of illness, that is something where perhaps we could or should be doing more and I completely take on board his comments.

Covid-19: Self-isolation Payment Scheme

Lord Polak Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a wide-ranging set of questions. We are looking at the effectiveness of the scheme. We are working with DAs to see whether the scheme could or should be extended in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Once that review is done and we have assessed its impact, we will be able to make decisions of the kind he describes.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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The headline figure of £13 can be, and has been, taken out of context. Can my noble friend the Minister reconfirm that the payment will not impact existing benefit entitlements?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the payment itself will not affect existing benefits in any way. Payments through the scheme will, though, be subject to income tax and some form of national insurance contribution, in line with other support payments such as through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Covid-19 Update

Lord Polak Excerpts
Wednesday 1st July 2020

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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I pay tribute to the NHS in the Leicester area, which has done magnificently. I understand that the facilities there are extremely resilient. In Leicester, as in many other places, a major source of concern is the spread of the disease among younger, working-age people, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are not showing symptoms—are not touched negatively by the disease and may be socialising—but become infectious to their parents and grandparents. That is the cycle that we have seen in places such as Texas where, after the Easter break, young people led to a large outbreak of the disease. At this stage, hospitals are not facing the pressure, but we are leaning into the disease to prevent the cycle from heading that way.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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Sadly, social media is rife with speculation about local lockdowns. People are naturally anxious and often pass on the speculation, which can make matters worse. Can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what he is doing to combat fake news and false data, so that the Government’s messaging can be heard loud and clear?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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My Lords, we have an energetic fake news and rebuttal team at the Department for Health—which I regard as an enormous shame. It is a waste of our time and indicates how dangerous speculation and false information of this nature can be. I have noticed in today’s social media a large amount of extremely irresponsible recycling of fake news by those who, frankly, should have known better. I urge all influencers, whether from the worlds of media, politics, health or other parts of society, to think carefully before recycling fake news and speculation on outbreaks in a way that wastes the time of public health officials and creates anxiety among the public.

Mental Health Services

Lord Polak Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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The noble Baroness raises an important point. I will confess that I am not, and will not pretend to be, completely across the matter she raises, but I will write to her with a clear answer.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, I declare an interest: my daughter Natasha is an art therapist and co-founded the charity Arts Therapies for Children, which works in 19 schools. The impact on the mental health of children brought up where domestic abuse is the norm is sadly clear; it is all they know, and often they think that the problems encountered are their own fault. It is during these years that they develop and learn how to value themselves and others. Therefore, the impact of domestic abuse can lead to a skewed view of who they are, which can be taken into adulthood. Will my noble friend the Minister ensure that resources are targeted at supporting charities and mental health services that work with these vulnerable children?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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I pay tribute to exactly the sort of charity that my noble friend’s daughter works in. They provide invaluable and often unseen benefits to society. We have already made available considerable financial support for similar such charities. If my noble friend would like to write to me with the details of the one he described, I would be glad to consider it. Undoubtedly, these charities will play an important role in dealing with mental health issues of the kind he describes during the mop-up after Covid.

National Health Service: Mental Health Funding

Lord Polak Excerpts
Wednesday 20th June 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O’Shaughnessy
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I agree with the right reverend Prelate that, unfortunately, that is a feature of rural communities. I understand that the MHCLG has a sparsity fund to help with that issue. Indeed, particular funding is going into support and more community-based care for those at risk of suicide and other mental illness.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, last Thursday, I was walking past Lambeth fire station just before the minute’s silence. Together with Charles Hanks, the station manager, I stood with those brave and professional firefighters. Afterwards, I asked about ongoing support and access to counselling services. Tracey Dennison, from the fire brigade, told me today that there was a slight increase in absenteeism as the anniversary approached and the inquiry began. The Fire Fighters Charity stepped up to provide family support. Can the Minister ensure, in the sad event of another serious tragedy, that emergency capacity for immediate and ongoing counselling support is available for our brave emergency services?

Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O’Shaughnessy
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My noble friend is absolutely right to highlight this issue. Individually, our emergency workers did extraordinary deeds of bravery, for which we are all deeply grateful, during the Grenfell fire. In the aftermath of that fire, the north-west London mental health service was the lead trust in providing mental health support for not just the families and individuals who were victims of the fire but emergency service workers who had been through that very traumatic experience. I strongly encourage any emergency service workers who are experiencing trauma—of course, that can happen many months, indeed years, afterwards—to get in contact with mental health services.

Hospitals: Patient Transport

Lord Polak Excerpts
Tuesday 4th April 2017

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O'Shaughnessy
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I am afraid the noble Lord is wrong on the 18-week target—it has not been dropped. It is within the mandate. The 18-week target is being fulfilled in the vast majority of cases. Performance is much better than it was 10 years ago in terms of both median waits and the number of people who are waiting. I do not have the precise figure for ambulance services. However, they are in the mandate and local trusts are expected to deliver against the targets in the mandate.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, some patients cannot use patient transport. Your Lordships will be aware of the story in the press over the past 24 hours about the desperately ill young man and father of two. If he lives past midnight tomorrow, when the changes to the widowed parent’s allowance take effect, it will mean a substantial financial loss to his family. This is not a story—it is real. His wife and mother of his two children is a close friend of my wife. Other families will be in the same situation. Will the Minister talk to his ministerial colleagues so that the Government can display understanding and humanity and allow this brave young man to pass peacefully from this world with dignity, in the knowledge that the financial future of his children is taken care of?

Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O'Shaughnessy
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I am sorry to hear about the case of this young man and offer my sympathies to both him and his family. I appreciate the urgency and I understand that this person may not have long to live. I shall certainly speak to colleagues as soon as humanly possible and come back to the noble Lord with information on the situation.

National Clinical Director of Adult Neurology

Lord Polak Excerpts
Thursday 9th June 2016

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lord Prior of Brampton Portrait Lord Prior of Brampton
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Health is of course a devolved matter in the UK, but there is absolutely nothing to stop the devolved parts of the UK—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England—from working closely together on these issues. I do not think that the lack of a national clinical director prevents us in any way from doing that.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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I want to register a sort of interest: 28 years ago, almost to the day, I was given six months to live. I had a brain tumour and was saved by a team of neurologists at the Royal Free Hospital. I hope that, in listening to this, the Minister and the department will always remember that individuals and families are at the forefront of this. If there is a belief that somebody central is needed to ensure that the best treatment is given, maybe we could look at it again.

Lord Prior of Brampton Portrait Lord Prior of Brampton
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I do not want in any way to diminish the huge clinical importance of this and the suffering of many people with long-term neurological conditions. They are among some of the worst illnesses that anyone can have and I am delighted that my noble friend recovered from his. From everything that I have been told by NHS England and Bruce Keogh, I do not believe that the lack of a national clinical director will in any way detract from the resources that we are making available to neurology.