Cautious welcome for neurology review

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has given a cautious welcome to the Department of Health’s review of neurology services, but added some political leaders are failing to lead on health issues.

The Department announced the review as part of its Delivering Together programme of service reviews announced in 2016. It will begin in September and report by early 2019. The South Belfast MLA said she was pleased to see neurology given the priority it deserves.

“The review is an opportunity to address wide-ranging issues across diagnostic testing, staff workload, workforce planning, communication with patients and families, and issues around governance and accountability including those emerging from the ongoing Inquiry.

“The timescale is challenging if patient voices are to be fully heard through the review, but necessarily so. I have written to the Permanent Secretary seeking assurances the timetable will be appropriately managed.

“We also cannot escape the reality political leaders are failing abjectly to help on this issue and countless others. For thousands of people across Northern Ireland – those on waiting lists for diagnosis or treatment, those unsure if past diagnoses are correct, and those in the service awaiting reform so they can do their job free from the incredible pressure they are under – this is the number one priority of government at the moment.

“This only leads to further anger and mystification when they hear leaders rehashing tired old arguments about issues well away from the problems in health and education which affect our daily lives. Too many politicians continue to believe they can get away with playing games while real people in real life are suffering.”

Bradshaw backs calls for action in cross-party abortion letter

PB APNI shotPaula Bradshaw MLA has signed a cross-party letter alongside elected representatives from across the UK and Ireland to support a campaign by Stella Creasy MP, which urges the British and Irish governments to use the forthcoming British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference to play a role in moving along the issue of abortion here in Northern Ireland.

Paula said, “I signed the letter because I felt the two main actions being requested are effectively calling the two governments to account on the issue of meeting commitments on human rights for women here. The first action is for the UK Prime Minister to set out an explicit legislative timetable for parliamentary scrutiny in Westminster of the Domestic Violence Bill, which includes the potential repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. This would result in the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

“The second action calls for an urgent ‘pathway to adequately provide for human rights – including compliant healthcare access for women in Northern Ireland’. The British and Irish government are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, and as such, should be doing more to getting the institutions defined under it back up and running as soon as possible. I believe the letter is a clear reminder of their responsibilities under this.

“I want to see this ‘pathway’ defined and agreed at the Inter-Governmental Conference, so that we, locally-elected members of the legislative assembly, can get back to work and to put in place legislation that meets the healthcare needs of women here.”

My thoughts on abortion and women’s rights in Northern Ireland

paula-bradshaw-351x400On Tuesday 22nd November a 45,000-strong petition organised by Amnesty International was submitted to the Speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly by my South Belfast colleague Clare Bailey MLA, Green Party. The Amnesty International petition called for the Reform of the Law on Abortion in Northern Ireland. I wholeheartedly support this call and here are my personal thoughts.

Whether women should be allowed to choose to terminate pregnancy is, perhaps, the defining social issue in this Assembly.  It can be difficult to discuss; to some people it is a matter of healthcare and trusting women to make their own choices; to others it is core to their personal morality.  A divergence of views isn’t unique to Northern Ireland, but we are distinctive in that we have no modern legislation that governs this area.  For my part, I am clear that we must allow women the right to choose, but I am equally clear that is a choice for individuals to make.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the 1967 Abortion Act allows women who choose it to terminate pregnancy if two doctors agree and the Act is widely accepted.  Across the Irish border, abortion is illegal in all but very narrow circumstances.  Ireland is united, at least in the refusal to allow women access to terminations.

Closer to home our debate has, sadly, been dominated by the loudest voices and people who place their personal and public piety ahead of the interests of some of the most marginalised in our society.  I will always trust women and I believe in the positive case for progressive change.

If we look at the opinions of people who live in Northern Ireland, and set to one side the voices we know already, we see that people are once again far ahead of their politicians.  In research undertaken by Millward Brown, we learn that 72% of people agree that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.   In cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, 67% of people agree that abortion should be allowed.

Moreover, when asked whether criminal penalties should be removed for women who have abortions in Northern Ireland, 58% agree this should happen.  Similar support (59%) exists for removing criminal penalties for doctors and medical staff who provide abortion services.  A clear majority want to see change and legislators who do not rise to the challenge will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

My personal view is that we must legislate for change, and to give women much greater access to terminations in Northern Ireland.  I believe that women have their rights denied locally and it is a failure of our politics that we export our problem to GB.  Let us not forget that class plays a role in this too, women are still paid less than men, and the cost of travel, accommodation and treatment mean that it is women of means who can afford to go to GB.

I am committed to working with colleagues and those in other parties to realise the ambition of a progressive Northern Ireland, one where women find their healthcare needs are provided for, their reproductive rights are upheld, and their contribution to society is fully recognised.

Bradshaw says HIV drug would save money in the long run

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has said a drug which can prevent HIV would be a money-saver in the long run.

The High Court has told the NHS in England it can fund provision of the pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) drug, with the daily pills estimated to cost taxpayers £20 million a year.

South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw said money could be saved with it after DUP Chair of the Assembly Health Committee Paula Bradley stated she “wouldn’t be against the introduction” of the drug here but the price would have to be looked at.

“From a humanitarian point of view, we must do everything we can to help people who need it. In Northern Ireland, there are over 800 people estimated to be living with HIV, with 94 cases diagnosed last year alone. If this drug can help prevent that, then it is our duty to make it as widely available as possible.

“While the drug could of course see an initial financial outlay, we would save money in the long run as the health service could cut down on preventative measures and other lifelong medication, as there would not be as much call to use them.

“It is a positive move the Chair has said she is not opposed to the introduction of Prep in Northern Ireland. I would call for that launch to take place as soon as possible in order to help the fight against one of the biggest challenges facing the human race.”