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It’s people that make history. People that change things. People that make memories.

The history of an area is how the people lived, what they did and how that shaped the environment, the economy and local life.

The history of Bilston is about making things. Coal. Iron. Steel. Enamels. A vast array of metal and other manufactured goods.

John Wilkinson loved iron so much he was buried in an iron coffin. His technological advances made Bilston a leading centre of iron making.

By the late 19th century Alfred Hickman was king of the local industry, working to turn Bilston from an iron making centre to a steel making centre.

These men’s names still live in the names of local streets, schools and even the park across the road from here.

By the 1920s the works were bought by Stewarts and Lloyds and you’ll know that the Stewart of that partnership came from Glasgow.

These are famous names associated with Bilston’s steel and iron industries. But this oral history project isn’t about their story. It’s your story.

The steelworks were a vital source of materials during the war and prospered until the 1970s when things got tougher and the battle to keep the works began.

Bert and Dennis Turner and many others played a full part in the fight to keep the steelworks open. There were trade union campaigns, marches and lobbies of Parliament, occupations, the study by Aston University and of ultimately course the steel strike itself. All making the argument about technology, profitability, viability and the huge social costs of closure.

The battle to keep the works open was ultimately lost and the town paid a very heavy price in terms of lost direct jobs, jobs lost in suppliers and also something that is hard to quantify but very important: the pride and identity that goes with a works this size and a tradition as long as steelmaking in Bilston. If what you are known for is closed down and no longer there it is very tough for an area and its people.

I very much welcome this oral history project – “In the Shadow of Elisabeth” – to record the story of the steelworks, the battle against closure and what all this meant to the area.

Thirty years on, you have to ask if Bilston ever really covered from the closure. Unemployment remained high for a long time, and today this constituency is still in the top 20 for unemployment in the whole of the UK.

Where people are in work their wages tend to be lower than the national average.

And the proportion of local people with long term sickness and difficult medical conditions is much higher than average.

The closure of the steelworks, and the other heavy industry that was also lost to the area at around this time, changed Bilston for ever. Thirty years on, the local and the national economies are very different.

It has not been a story only of decline for Wolverhampton is still an area that makes things and does it well. We have a strong aerospace cluster in the city and of course a new £500m engine plant for Jaguar Land Rover just a few miles away.

There are also new services and areas of work that simply never existed thirty years ago.

The challenge for us all today is to make sure that young people in the area can succeed in the job market as it is now and will be in the future. We have to avoid what happened after the steelworks closure which for many was years of unemployment and indeed some never worked again.

This project will play a very important role in recording what happened and how we can learn from it. And our resolve must be that whatever work is out there in today’s world, young people in Bilston have the education and skills that enables them to do it. Because if history tells us anything it is that the creativity and enterprise of this area mean its people are a match for anyone. What we have to do is to make sure they get the opportunities to prove it.


Ends

Pat McFadden speech to the oral history project, “In the Shadow of Elisabeth”, delivered at 6pm Friday 23 January 2015, Bilston Community Centre

It’s people that make history. People that change things. People that make memories. The history of an area is how the people lived, what they did and how that shaped...

Commenting on the announcement this morning that Tesco is to cancel its planned £60 million investment in the former Royal Hospital site in Wolverhampton, MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat McFadden said:

“This decision is a betrayal of the people of Wolverhampton and a clear breach of the promise made by the company to the people of the city.

“Less than a year ago the UK Managing Director of Tesco gave a pledge on behalf of the company that this investment would go ahead in the coming financial year.

“Now the company has broken its word.

“Tesco has owned this site for fourteen years. During that time it has remained undeveloped and a blight on All Saints and on the city more generally.

“The company blames the downturn in their business. But it is not the fault of my constituents that Tesco has been weak at fighting off competition. Nor is it the fault of my constituents that the company engaged in malpractice of its own accounts to give a false impression of its profits. Yet it is my constituents who are going to pay the price for Tesco’s failures through promised investment denied, promised jobs not created and promised regeneration which has not taken place. By its actions today Tesco has proven itself as a company whose word cannot be trusted.

“The one useful thing they could do is to work constructively for a positive future use for the site. They have a duty to the people of the city whom they have let down very badly. But the proof of their future action can only be in what they do rather than what they say. Because after today, why would anyone believe what they promise about the future?”

For further information please contact Pat McFadden MP on 0207 219 4036 or 01902 405762

Pat McFadden MP slams Tesco for breach of trust

Commenting on the announcement this morning that Tesco is to cancel its planned £60 million investment in the former Royal Hospital site in Wolverhampton, MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat...

Mr Owen I am grateful to serve under your chairmanship today.

 

Sickle Cell affects an estimated 12 - 15000 people in the UK and around 400 hundred in the West Midlands where my constituency is, with the associated condition, Thallassemia affecting around 1000 people, though hundreds of thousands more carry the traits for these conditions.  The condition mainly but not exclusively affects the afro Caribbean community.

 

Sickle Cell is the most common genetically inherited condition in the UK.  Roughly one baby every day is born in our country with the condition. 

 

There is no known cure for the condition.  The symptoms vary from relatively mild infrequent pain for some to much more serious episodes of crisis, frequent hospital admissions, strokes, organ damage and reduced life spans.

 

At the heart of debates about treatment for this condition lies one simple question:  why is it, for all the progress that has been made – and there has been progress – that there is still such variability in the treatment for sufferers, leading to enormous and debilitating pain, avoidable and expensive hospital admissions and very damaging consequences for the families of those who suffer from Sickle Cell? 

 

Some hospitals and some specialist care units do a fantastic job.  But Sickle cell sufferers don’t want to see only islands of excellence.  They want a system that is excellent and offers high quality integrated care that minimises hospital admissions, manages pain treatment and enhances quality of life wherever they live.  The experience of patients as told to me and to others is that we are still a long way from having a system of excellence in the care of this condition, where the best is the norm.

 

I want to pay tribute to the work of the Wolverhampton Sickle Cell Care and Social Activity Centre based in Bilston in my constituency and to the other patient led groups around the country, to the Sickle Cell Society which is the national organisation speaking up for sufferers and to the work of the APPG for Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia, chaired by my Hon Friend the member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

 

Organisations like this are doing a tremendous job in explaining what this condition means for sufferers, calling for more attention on the condition, and pressing for better training for NHS staff and a more rounded way of providing treatment.

 

I have had extensive contact over the past seven years or so with the Wolverhampton Sickle Cell care group.  The group provides hugely needed and valuable support for sufferers of the condition throughout the city and indeed beyond.  This can be anything from helping patients deal with different agencies, helping their families through crises when they have to be admitted to hospital to a broader advocacy role locally.

 

While the group praises many NHS staff locally, the biggest and most consistent complaint they have is about lack of understanding of the condition among GPs, A&E staff and some other NHS staff leading to pain and delay for sufferers and bad consequences for their families.  

 

They told me about Sharon, a single parent of two children under the age of 10 who has full Sickle Cell and is in frequent crisis.  Every time she is admitted to hospital there is a desperate scramble to ensure care for the children among friends and relatives.  There is no proper system in place to support her children.  The stress on her and her family is enormous.  It leads to her discharging herself early, often before proper treatment is complete because she has to look after the children and soon the whole pattern begins again.  Is there not a better way to manage Sharon’s pain than frequent hospital admissions and incomplete treatment?  And if she does have to be admitted, should there not be a better system of support for her children?

 

And they told me about the local man in his 40s who has gone for years without treatment for bleeding at the back of his eyes as a result of Sickle Cell and whose sight is now at risk when earlier treatment may have helped bring about a different outcome.

 

Or the patient I was told about by the Sickle Cell Society who was costing the NHS a fortune through repeated hospital admissions exacerbated by the fact that her children slept in the one bed in her flat and she didn’t have a bed.  Buying her a bed made a huge difference.  The cost of her hospital admissions could have paid for a hundred beds.

 

We will never reach a stage where no Sickle Cell patient has to be admitted to hospital but getting Sickle Cell care right has the potential to reduce hospital admissions making the condition easier to manage for the patient and saving the NHS a considerable amount of money,

 

The fact that the condition does not have a cure does not mean good professional care cannot make a difference. 

 

This brings me to the national picture and the Peer Review of Specialist care carried out by the West Midland Quality Review Service and the UK Forum on Haemoglobin Disorders which was published last year.

 

This review visited 29 hospitals and reviewed the care provided.  The aim of the care standards which have been developed is quite simple:  That there should be Specialist Haemoglobinopathy teams based in hospitals backed up by a Local Haemoblobinopathy team.  In other words the system should have both the expertise to offer the best care and be properly connected between primary and hospital care.

 

That is a good aim but the reality is much more varied and herein lies one of main causes of frustration for Sickle Cell sufferers and the organisations who speak out for them.  The Peer Review process did find instances of excellent joined up practice.  It found committed staff going the extra mile to deliver the best care.  But it also found overstretch, patchiness, breakdowns in care pathways and an unacceptable degree of variability across the country.

 

  • The report says: Cooperation between acute and community nursing teams was sometimes very good but this was not universal. The availability of social work and psychology support was variable.
  • In many teams there were inadequate numbers of nursing staff for the number of patients, or in some cases no acute nurse specialist at all. Even where these posts were in place they often had a very high workload which included inappropriate tasks (such as routine manual or automated exchanges, filling in benefit forms) with very poor cover arrangements.

 

The peer review process also found that, particularly in non haematology parts of the system patients “perceived they were viewed as “second class” haematology patients”.

 

This point about how Sickle Cell patients view their own experience is critical point.  Sickle Cell patients often feel they are treated either with a lack of understanding or even worse, sometimes with suspicion when they try to explain their condition or arrive at A&E in need of urgent pain relief.  Lack of understanding can not only lead to poor care but to patients feeling they have not been treated with dignity and that their need for treatment is not respected.

 

I don’t need to remind the Minister that the very principle of the NHS means there should be no such thing as first class and second class patients.  I don’t want to see anyone treated or feeling as though they have been treated as a second class citizen.  The whole basis of the NHS, paid for collectively with treatment on the basis of need, is that everyone is a first class citizen.  If there are sufferers of a genetically inherited condition who do not feel they are being treated as such that is not acceptable and something we should take very seriously indeed.

 

Another issue identified by the peer review is poor quality of data.  This leaves us being unsure of the number of sufferers and unsure, beyond emergency admissions, about the resources devoted to treating the condition.  How can we ensure the right treatment if we don’t know who the sufferers are or where they are?  What is the Minister doing to improve these clearly identifiable data problems?

 

The Peer Review made a number of good recommendations about access to specialist care, staffing levels, training, psychological support and managing the transition between paediatric and adult care.  These issues are absolutely central to experience of Sickle Cell patients.

 

Can the Minister tell the House, what is happening on these peer review recommendations?  Will he undertake to go through them not in a general way but point by point, and give a progress report to the House?  Such a report would be welcomed by sufferers and would ensure there was follow up on these important recommendations,

 

Then there is, for patients, the basic cost of living with the condition.  Living with Sickle Cell is to live with pain and the need for pain relief.  This means frequent prescriptions.  For some patients the cost of these can be prohibitive.  This is not just a matter of money but behaviour.  If people do not use their pain relief efficiently because they can’t afford more this can affect their condition.

 

I appreciate the cost pressures on the NHS but would the Minister agree to commissioning an analysis from his Department to see whether free prescriptions for Sickle Cell sufferers would cost money or would in fact lead to net savings because it reduced hospital admissions?

 

And what of how care for Sickle Cell sufferers is to be delivered in the future?  NHS England is currently responsible for commissioning care for rare diseases.  But the review of how to commission care for Sickle Cell to be concluded in April next year has three possible models: continuing with national commissioning; co-commissioning with CCGs or leaving it all to CCGs.

 

Given that there is already concern about the large degree of variability in the quality of treatment, knowledge of the condition and priority given to it, Sickle Cell organisations fear a move to CCG only commissioning will exacerbate these problems.

 

Can the Minister ensure that the future way treatment is organised is in line with the aims of the peer review exercise ie dealing with the variability of treatment issue rather than making it more difficult?  Again I repeat our aim should be a system which makes the best the norm rather than one which balkanises care and makes this more of a lottery depending on where you live.

 

To conclude Mr Chairman, Sickle Cell is an issue which deserves more attention than it has received and a greater priority in the delivery of high quality health care.   The issue is less about knowing what the best care looks like and more about ensuring it is delivered to the highest standard throughout the country.  This condition also requires some smart joined up thinking between agencies.  Repeated hospital admissions because of a lack of a bed to sleep on at home is not a smart way to deal with a condition like Sickle Cell.

 

Sufferers have to put up with a life of pain but good treatment, the right information and the right lifestyle can make an enormous difference.  That this treatment, information and help is so variable is not acceptable.  Dignity and respect are essential for all NHS patients.  That Sickle Cell patients feel they do not always get this is a concern for us all. 

 

It is time we ensured the best care was available to all sufferers, delivered by a system which understands the condition and fully respects the patient and which allows sufferers to live as full lives as possible.

 

I hope the Minister can respond to the issues I have raised today in a way that makes that more likely, and where he does not have the answers, goes back to the Department and presses the officials to make sure the changes we know we need are made to happen.

 

Speech by Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP on Sickle Cell Anaemia delivered in Westminster Hall, House of Commons at 11am on Wednesday 10th December 2014

Mr Owen I am grateful to serve under your chairmanship today.   Sickle Cell affects an estimated 12 - 15000 people in the UK and around 400 hundred in the...

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