Debates between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell during the 2019 Parliament

Folic Acid

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Monday 26th April 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear the frustration loud and clear and reassure the noble Baroness that we are working on this at pace.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in response to numerous questions and debates on this subject over the years, no Minister has ever produced a satisfactory explanation of why we do not add folic acid to flour. Would it have made any difference if the folic acid suppliers had had the Prime Minister’s mobile phone number?

ONS: UK Life Expectancy

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Thursday 17th December 2020

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I cannot give an answer in the round and explain every element, but we have to face up as a nation to the fact that some of our habits are unhealthy. In some communities smoking rates are extremely high, and the difference between different communities is profound—1.6% in west London, compared to 25.7% in Blackpool. Our obesity, BMI and consumption of high-calorie food is just too high. This is not the sole explanation, but as a nation we have to face up to some of our behaviours.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, half the considerable difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in our country is entirely accounted for by smoking. At present, the Government are spending considerable amounts of money on advertising campaigns which tell people how to keep safe during the Covid pandemic. In the future, will the Government reinstate advertising aimed at promoting smoking cessation, to meet their own target of making Britain a smoke-free country and helping to improve the health and life expectancy of the poorest in our society?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord makes his point extremely well: smoking rates in this country are far too high. The huge amount of Covid advertising at the moment has squeezed out a lot of our public health messages, and I reassure him that we will return to them—including the smoking campaign—when normal business resumes.

Cancer Task Force

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty's Government how the new cancer taskforce will operate; and what funding that taskforce will be able to direct towards reducing any backlog in identifying and treating cancer patients.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Cancer Recovery Taskforce’s role is advisory, to oversee the development of a national cancer delivery plan due to be published later this autumn. The task force is chaired by Professor Peter Johnson, the national clinical director for cancer. It met for the first time in September and is due to meet again on Thursday. Membership is drawn from across the cancer community, and I thank all of those involved. NHS Improvement has recently confirmed annual funding allocations of £153 million for 2021 to the cancer alliances in England.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I refer to my interests as in the register. Cancer Research UK and Macmillan have reported that 2.4 million people are now waiting for screening, tests and treatments for cancer services. The Commons Health Select Committee has reported that the number of MRI and CT scans to diagnose the disease has plummeted by 75%. Given that the Government spend on average half as much on capital in healthcare compared to similar countries, what is the scale of the investment over the next year that will be specifically allocated for the latest technologies and additional staff to deal with the backlog of cancer diagnosis and treatment?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the situation raised by Cancer Research UK and others causes concern, but I reassure the noble Lord that we are doing more than a million routine cancer appointments and operations per week to catch up with the backlog. Urgent two-week waits for GP referrals are back to almost 85% of pre-epidemic levels and we have a massive plan to address this, which includes the creation of Covid-secure environments, switching to new drugs for those who cannot make it to hospital, the judicious use of radiography, targeted messaging to those who may suffer from the symptoms of cancer, the use of rapid health diagnostics, an alliance with charities, a cancer recovery plan and enhanced monitoring on a single version of truth basis of our progress on this important issue.

Health Care: Guidance

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Monday 21st September 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness is right that half of consultations have been done by telephone or on the internet. Some of those have been successful, but I agree with her that we have to keep GP surgeries open for those who either choose or need face-to-face consultations. That is why the NHS chief executive has written to CCGs and trusts urging them to be open and to have fair access to face-to-face consultations where necessary.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I refer to my entry in the register of interests. Older people are more vulnerable to complications from the virus. Many more of them will have diabetes, and many more will feel that they need cancer treatment urgently. So why are so many older people still worried that they might be treated less favourably by the NHS due to their age? In particular, will the Minister explain how the backlog in treating cancer patients will be dealt with?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is entirely right that there is a large amount of concern among patients—existing patients who are on existing programmes and patients who think to go to the NHS. We are launching a “Help Us Help You” campaign at the beginning of October, which will be a substantial marketing campaign to reassure patients who might be concerned that the NHS is open and there to help them.

Anti-obesity Strategies

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am not sure I agree with the premise of the question. It is not my belief that the anti-obesity campaign will generate massive negative repercussions. The NHS’s work in this area has developed immensely and we are putting a huge amount of money into it, including through our mental health strategy. I support the strategy we are applying.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the need for psychological support for people with such eating disorders is often identified through face-to-face meetings with GPs. Is the Minister satisfied that it is possible, in safe conditions, for people to obtain such meetings at the moment and that, if such a need is identified, sufficient psychological support is available for them?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is probably aware that a letter has been sent to GPs inviting them to step up to their responsibilities for face-to-face meetings. Everyone should have a face-to-face meeting if that is what they require and need. One of the surprising and interesting outcomes of the Covid epidemic is that many mental health services have been successfully delivered through video links. It has meant that people who may feel vulnerable about attending a GP’s surgery or mental health clinic have had the opportunity for consultations. We will look at how to expand that kind of interaction.

Smoking

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Monday 20th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness points to the knottiest and most difficult of the challenges of giving up smoking. It is extremely sad that anyone should contemplate smoking during pregnancy, but this is one of the most durable and knottiest problems. I commend the use of creative and innovative schemes such as the one in Manchester to which the noble Baroness alludes, but more needs to be done, because prevention is better than cure.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, 1 million people have given up smoking to protect their health during lockdown and now 86% of people in the UK do not smoke. Will the Minister therefore support the amendment this afternoon, which would mean that if additional tables and chairs are put outside pubs and restaurants through pavement licences, all the new seating areas created will be smoke free and more attractive to potential customers?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is right to commend those who have given up smoking during Covid. I pay tribute to anyone who has given up smoking. I struggled and found it immensely difficult, but I am glad that I did it. There is a government amendment to the Bill, which the Department for Health and Social Care supports, and we wish it every success.

Covid-19: Mental Health Services

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the work on the NHS people plan continues during the epidemic and we look forward to making the first announcement on that shortly, which will cover many of the concerns of the noble Baroness. I also remind the House that, on 15 June, Public Health England unveiled its psychological first-aid training course, developed by PHE, which has proved extremely helpful, as has the confidential helpline that was unveiled on 8 April, which we continue to support.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience depression as those without, and a third of Covid-19 deaths in England are linked to people with diabetes. A survey by Diabetes UK shows that three-quarters of people with diabetes who have felt that they needed specialist mental health support cannot access it. How can the Government help to ensure that more people are tested for diabetes and that those with the condition receive comprehensive check-ups, including screening and support for mental health issues?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we are investing in new and additional diabetes testing arrangements. Testing is essential for the diagnosis and management of this affliction. The noble Lord is entirely right that the connection between Covid deaths and diabetes appears profound. It is a wake-up call for the whole country and puts a spotlight on the large amount of diabetes in the UK. We will unveil plans in the future for refocusing on this important public health issue.

Social Distancing: Two-metre Rule

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness highlights an incredibly important consideration in the review on the two-metre rule. Clearly, those who are vulnerable or in social care deserve the best protection necessary. SAGE has been extremely clear that two metres provides emphatically more protection than one metre, and the protection of our vulnerable people will be an important consideration in any review.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, yesterday a Health Minister in the Commons repeated the mantra that advisers advise and Ministers decide. But trust in government has diminished greatly in recent weeks, so people need to know what is advised before accepting what Ministers decide. Can the Minister assure us that the advice to be provided by the Government’s scientific and medical advisers to this review will be published as it is written and submitted by them, independently of any government pressure, so that we will know whether or not any proposed change really is based on scientific and medical advice? There is a consensus that the Government were late on lockdown, late on face masks and late on testing and tracing, so we do not want to be premature in reducing the two-metre distance rule. Should we not be sure that we have a full track and trace system in place before considering easing the distance rules?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not recognise the contention of the noble Lord. Having been in many meetings with our scientific advisers, I deny the suggestion that scientists are open to being pressured by politicians. The advice that they have given is clear-cut and it is for us to consider its value. The noble Lord does scientists no favours by implying that they might be changeable under pressure.

Covid-19: Response

Debate between Lord Rennard and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Earl is stretching my scientific knowledge with his question. All I can say is that different vaccines work in different ways. Anyone with antibodies who has beaten the disease has the capability of beating the disease, but vaccines ensure that that capability lasts longer, hopefully for life.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, does the Minister listen to the excellent BBC Radio 4 programme “More or Less”? If so, he may have heard the total demolition of the claim that 100,000 tests were being conducted each day by the end of April. Much doubt has also been cast on claims that care homes were always included in government figures. Trust in government is vital at the moment, so does the Minister think that a body such as the Office for National Statistics should be given the role of vetting figures that are quoted in the daily Downing Street press conferences?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I do listen to “More or Less”. I absolutely love it, and it is a shame that I did not hear the episode to which the noble Lord refers because I would have reprimanded them greatly. The 100,000 tests a day are done very clearly. I would be glad to take the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, to visit our Lighthouse Labs to see the remarkable automation and robotics that achieve that remarkable effect. On the care home figures, we work hard in order to create prompt, immediate, daily figures. Those are then verified and put into the official national figures that are curated by the ONS. Having operational figures that are delivered quickly is important for decision-making. Having figures officially verified by the ONS to audit those results is an entirely appropriate way of doing things. It is a system that works, and we currently have no intention to change it.