MP’s Friday “fun”

MP’s Friday “fun”

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, spoke in confused, confabulatory, support for the Chris Heaton-Harris version of the Saatchi Bill – ‘Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill’. In doing so, he ensured that not only would the Bill – criticised by patient safety experts, Royal Colleges, doctors, medical research organisations and more- get through its second reading; but also bolstered his filibustering of the next item, the  Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) BillAfter all, who needs safe medical treatment, or a safe home to live in? 

Earning the accolade of ‘friend to rogue landlords’ last year by blocking the Tenancies (Reform) Bill to prevent eviction for asking for basic repairs in rented property, he’d been ‘unrepentant’ in the Independent:

“When I first got elected to Parliament my mentor was Eric Forth [the former Tory MP] and he really was the past master of talking out bills on a Friday… He did it for fun and he was brilliant at it. After he died I vowed I would do the same kind of work.”     …you can’t pass legislation on the whim of a worthy sentiment because it affects people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Soon after blocking Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and endorsing the thoroughly terrible Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, he spent 90 minutes blocking the Hospital Parking Charges Bill, which would have allowed free parking for carers in hospitals.  It’s not just Davies MP, but he certainly is the most prolific of the boys crowd who seem to get their kicks from this, without thought or care to the people who will be affected by their behaviour. 

 “To see the government playing games with it and to think that’s clever and funny is obscene.” – Labour MP Julie Bailey

Not content with voting through the very real risk of maiming individuals without consideration of their safety; and then increasing the financial burden on their carers, while they live in a home unfit for human habitation (which is alright, he’s a landlord so can’t be distracted from parliamentary duties by such matters as ensuring safe housing of tenants..) he turned his attention to what happens when one of them requires emergency life support – such as after a cardiac arrest, possibly brought on by exposure to toxic contaminants leaking into their rented house. Well, of course, why would those people be a priority? 

Presumably doing it “for fun” Davies MP and others set about blocking a backbench bill that had the support of the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, as well as Resuscitation Council UK, the British Cardiovascular Society, PTA UK, the Royal College of Nursing, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Heartsafe Leicestershire and more.  The Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education (State-funded Secondary Schools) Bill would have ensured that emergency first aid/life support skills were taught as part of the national curriculum in state secondary schools. 

The British Heart Foundation are clear in their call to create ‘A Nation of Lifesavers’: More than 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest each year outside of hospital. Fewer than one in ten survive (e.g. 8.6% survival in 2013). The BHF have produced ‘Call Push Rescue’ kits for schools to teach CPR, and kits for workplaces and community groups. They run ‘HeartStart’ training schemes, and provide equipment for emergency life saving training to be run in a scheme for schools and colleges backed by St John Ambulance, SJA LINKS, the London Ambulance Service and the London medical schools, Saving Londoners Lives’. The British Red Cross have excellent teaching resources

But not all children are taught CPR, let alone other emergency life support. These are voluntary schemes, requiring funding and well trained volunteers and their time. For something so vital, this patchwork, unsupported provision is not enough – it doesn’t reach everyone. The BHF estimate that, although many thousands of children receive training at secondary school through HeartStart, the reach is just not enough overall.  In 2013, 70,000 were trained: just 2% of the total number of secondary age children.  In countries and states where ELS is part of the curriculum, including France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden; survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrests far outstrip those of the UK.   In the UK, people are more likely to look the other way in public, and be unable to help at home. It’s no exaggeration to say this is life or death, on a very far reaching scale. Every child deserves to know how to save the life of a friend, a sibling, a parent. 

Peter Aldous: When she was 14, Samantha saved her mother’s life.  She said: “It is horrible to think what could have happened if I had not known CPR.”  In those countries where CPR is taught in schools, survival rates are more than double those of the UK.  If we could match our survival rates with those of Norway we could save 5,000 lives each year.

“Why on earth would I allow a bill that principle of which I don’t like a second reading?”

Speaking for 50 minutes to crash it into the rocks, his reasoning included that he simply did not agree with the principle of it. Other things I gather Davies MP doesn’t like in principle include gay marriage, international aid, international women’s day.  He’d been taught first aid and had forgotten what he was taught, he said. 

“I remember doing a first aid course at school, but I have to admit that if I were faced with a medical emergency, I would struggle to remember all the training I received. In that sense it would be rendered completely useless. That would apply to many of those who would go through first aid training at school, particularly if they were not paying attention because they did not want to be there in the first place.”

His failure to keep his first aid skills up to date, or indeed to pay attention in the first place, perhaps reinforced his conviction that it’s a waste of time. 

“If this Bill is so easy for schools to implement—it is said that it will save time, save money and save lives—then there is absolutely nothing to stop them from introducing first aid courses now as part of the existing curriculum….My point, which is very relevant to the Bill, is that all these things, very worthy in themselves, are like a salami slicer.   A serious effect of the Bill is that it will take up time in the curriculum… it is perfectly clear that spending extra time on English would be far more beneficial than a two-hour course in first aid, regardless of whether that is worth while.”

“I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools”      The apparently more pressing concern was that people wouldn’t join the scouts.

Sir Roger Gale: I understand what my hon. Friend is saying… but the bottom line, as my hon. Friend knows and as I know, is that the overwhelming majority of children, for whatever reason, do not take advantage of any of those schemes. We are talking about life and death, and he ought to consider that very seriously indeed.

Philip Davies: I take my hon. Friend’s point, but I will explain why I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools. My fear is if we start doing in school all the things that happen at the scouts, the guides and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, there will be no point in people joining them, and these very worthy organisations—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. We are not debating what is provided by the scouts, the guides or anyone else. This is about the provision of first aid training. We do not want to get into all the activities those organisations do or try to compare the two. You understand that, Mr Davies. You are very good.

Philip Davies: The point I am trying to make, Mr Deputy Speaker—I apologise if I am making it in a ham-fisted way—is why the Bill is unnecessary. We are discussing whether the Bill should be enacted, and I am making the point—I apologise if I appear to be doing it in a deviant manner, but I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not doing so intentionally—that the Bill is unnecessary, for the reasons I am giving. I hope that is well within the scope of the debate.

Teresa Pearce: Surely the Bill would be unnecessary only if everybody was trained in first aid? We know clearly that only a very small proportion of people in this country are.

Philip Davies: It would be very worth while if everybody joined the scouts.

In dismissing its inclusion, Davies entirely missed what’s in the National Curriculum – which is firmly supported by first aid training – (and was also wrong when he claimed it does not include sex education)

firstaidAnd despite the evident lack of expertise, he was happy to assert how teachers would feel  and leapt in to refute some of the arguments used  to support Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s widely condemned Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill. 

Philip Davies: I am very sorry that people seem to think they can come here with a worthy sentiment and expect it just to be nodded through because it is a worthy sentiment. That is not the purpose of this House; the purpose is to try to scrutinise legislation, and some of us take that seriously. 

Sir Roger Gale: I have been in this House for 32 years, and I think I know my way around the Bill procedures. I think I am right in saying that if a Bill has a Second Reading, it usually then goes into Committee, where it can be studied line by line and, if necessary, amended line by line. I would like to think that given that this is a matter of life and death, my hon. Friend might allow this Bill to have a Second Reading and then allow it to be dissected, if necessary, in Committee.

Philip Davies: It is not often that my hon. Friend makes a ludicrous argument, but I am afraid he has just done so. That would be like saying that any Bill should automatically be nodded through on its Second Reading because then we can amend it to how we would like it in Committee. That is not how this place works… I do not agree with the principle of compulsory emergency first aid education in schools, so why on earth would I want to allow such a Bill a Second Reading, any more than he would vote for the Second Reading of a Bill whose principle he disagrees with? That is how this place works.

The debate was adjourned to Friday 29 January 2016, while Sam Gyimah MP continued reading lists. 

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World first innovation in cancer therapy at Great Ormond Street

The twinkling eyes and smile of Layla Richards shine out from many newspaper front pages today – and for a newsworthy reason. A world first treatment for her Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia was tried out by doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. 

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All of this went on without the Medical Innovation Bill or Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill.

Photo: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Lord Saatchi has consistently framed the need for his legislation with tales of denials of a potential cure, ‘wasted lives’, ‘cut and drilled’ on traumatic trajectories to death, as an uncaring and purely self-interested medical profession looks on.    

‘Current law in relation to medical negligence contributes to this failure. It defines medical negligence as deviation from standard procedure. But as innovation = deviation, then non-deviation = non- innovation.

The result is that all cancer deaths are wasted lives. The deaths, and their attendant tragedies, have not advanced scientific knowledge by one centimetre.


Because all the deceased have received is the standard procedure – the endless repetition of a failed experiment.’
–  Lord Maurice Saatchi

The rationale for the legislation was, apparently, and as has been written about extensively, to change the law and in turn encourage more doctors to innovate. 

The ‘current law obliges the doctor to follow the status quo, even though he/she knows it leads only to poor life quality followed by death.’

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His claims have been repeated in briefing documents, in the press, at meetings, in the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

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There is no need to change the law of negligence – as this already permits innovative practice. Nor is there any evidence to suggest any case in negligence has arisen due to responsible innovation in treatment, regardless of the outcome. Indeed there are many examples where the legal position is used expressly to favour an innovative approach. 

Those responding to the consultation and responding in an unwaveringly loud chorus against the proposals of any variation of the Bill have made it clear that if there are barriers to innovative treatment, the law of negligence is not the issue. Changing it will not help doctors, and will not help patients. Nor will it be inert. It is a deeply misguided attempt that is not based on evidence – ‘a solution in search of a problem and not  very sound solution at that’, surmised the National Assembly for Wales. The interim report of the Accelerated Access Review led by Sir Hugh Taylor makes no mention of the law of negligence or the fear of it as an obstruction to accessing innovative treatments. No legal, medical or research organisation supports this assertion either. The proposals would destroy the law that operates responsively and permissively to allow responsible innovation to happen today. 

It is time for Chris Heaton-Harris, Lord Saatchi and the Department of Health to recognise when it’s time to stop and- if truly concerned about patients and access to treatments-  assess any of the genuine barriers to access and support a change that would help, rather than harm doctors and patients – children like Layla in future. 


Photo: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Layla’s case

Read: Full account of Layla’s experience at GOSH

Baby Layla was diagnosed with ALL at 14 weeks. She received a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy but they were not successful.  Shortly before her first birthday all normal treatments were exhausted, and her cancer was incurable. Her parents asked if anything else could be done.

A highly experimental therapy – tried only in mice- used TALEN gene editing technology to enzymatically deactivate genes in healthy donor T cells and precisely edit DNA to create ‘designer ‘cells targeted to the cancer that would withstand the necessary medication. After a 1ml infusion of 50m engineered cells over 10 minutes, a second bone marrow transplant 2 months later and now just 3 months down the line, baby Layla has a restored immune response and has been declared ‘cancer free’.   This is the first time- ever- that human cells engineered using this technology have been given back to a patient. The first trial of gene editing therapy was published last year, where an approach using a different DNA editing enzyme was used for HIV. 

Layla’s case will require very close follow-up and monitoring to ensure that the therapy is as effective as it appears to be, and a trial is planned for the approach next year. 

As Professor Waseem Qasim said: “We have only used this treatment on one very strong little girl and we have to be cautious about claiming this will be suitable for all children. But this is a landmark in the use of new gene engineering technology and the effects on this child have been staggering. If replicated, it could represent a huge step forward in treating leukaemia and other cancers.”

Here’s to Layla and her family – fantastic and all the very best!