rise in national insurance to fund the NHS and social care was the easy bit – now comes the graft

4 min read

My job as Health Select Committee chair is to hold the government to account, and I haven’t shied away from doing that during the pandemic. But that means also giving credit where it’s due.

NHS leaders, clinicians and the select committee have been warning about the precarious state of the NHS and care systems post-pandemic, and ministers have really listened. A Conservative government raising national insurance to invest in the NHS is a bold one-nation move that will be rewarded by voters, who testify time and again that nothing matters more to them than healthcare. 

So it’s deeply disheartening to see opposition politicians who complain about NHS and social care underfunding week in and week out vote against giving the NHS an extra £12bn each year. This is politicking of the worst kind because the crisis in the NHS and care system is real, and the hard fact is that any wealth tax will not raise the kind of sums needed to care for an ageing population. If other parties can’t point specifically to how they would raise £12bn a year from April, then they can’t look their constituents facing long waits for operations in the eye and tell them they have a plan to help.

Even before the pandemic, there were structural reasons why we needed a proper conversation with the electorate about health funding. Last year was the first in human history where there were more over 65s than under 18s. In the UK, the number of people aged 65 and over is growing three times faster than the number aged under 65. 

It is a wonderful miracle that we are living longer, but one with dramatic consequences for NHS and care spending. A 50-year-old man costs the NHS just under £500 on average – but by the time he is 85 it rises to nearly £4,000. Our hospitals will be 40 per cent busier in 15-years-time according to one study. 

It was, as Sir Humphrey would say, “brave” for a Conservative Prime Minister to raise taxes but the next task of turning money into shorter waits, with proper reform, will be tougher still. As the cost of living increases on every side, voters will be angry if they don’t see tangible improvements fast in exchange for that rise in national insurance. 

It could well be that getting the national insurance increase through Parliament was the easy bit

I know some simply see the NHS as a bottomless pit and fear the money will disappear without touching the sides. They are right to be concerned. As someone who has made their fair share of mistakes while stewarding the NHS, I believe we need urgent reform in several crucial areas to avoid that fate.

There is a real and rapidly deteriorating workforce crisis in the NHS. Our eye-watering waiting lists, lack of face-to-face GP appointments and even multiple lockdowns to protect NHS capacity stem partly from this pressing issue. 

You can give the NHS £8bn extra for the next three years but without £8bn of extra doctors and nurses to do the work, nothing will change. The Health Foundation estimates it will take 4,000 more doctors and 18,000 more nurses to clear the backlog, but so far there is no plan to find them.

Long term there is only one solution, so far rejected by the government, to allow an independent body to make workforce forecasts, OBR-style, so we can make sure we are training enough doctors and nurses for the future.

It could well be that getting the national insurance increase through Parliament was the easy bit for ministers. Much now hangs on their ability to avoid the traps set out above. But they have taken a courageous first step in raising the money and they should be applauded for that. This is not, in the end, about big state versus small state politics, but whether we back the people’s number one priority: healthcare. 

Jeremy Hunt is Conservative MP for South West Surrey and chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee

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Five years on, 22,000 workers in Britain are at work on Hinkley Point C

Credit: EDF

Stuart Crooks, Managing Director of Hinkley Point C

From new jobs to investment in British businesses, the benefits of Hinkley Point C are clear to see.

Last week was another significant milestone for the Hinkley Point C project. We marked five years since the final contracts for the site were signed on 29 September 2016. It’s been an incredible five years, and I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made on construction, as well as the fantastic team and supply chain that’s making it possible.

Hinkley Point C is essential in the fight against climate change and for Britain’s energy security. It is delivering on its promise of boosting British jobs, skills, and industry right across the country. Five years after getting the go-ahead, the number of people working on HPC has reached 22,000.

That figure includes 6,300 currently on site, compared to the 1,500 we had at the height of the pandemic last year. Undoubtedly Covid-19 has challenged the project and its suppliers, and I am proud of the enormous efforts made to keep the site safe and moving ahead. As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we can now create more jobs as we step up construction and manufacturing for the next phase of the project.

One of the real successes of the site is the breadth of companies involved in construction from across the UK. 3,600 British companies have won contracts on the project. This includes more than 400 businesses in the north of England where spending has already topped £1.2 billion. From Assystem in Blackburn, to Darchem on Teesside, thousands of British businesses have played their role in building the first new nuclear power station in a generation that will help Britain achieve Net Zero by providing reliable, low carbon electricity to meet 7% of the country’s needs. By the end of the project, £18 billion will have been spent with British businesses.

Hinkley Point C and its suppliers are using factory construction and innovation to increase quality and productivity. We’ve already seen big gains between the construction of the first unit and unit two. The skills of these workers, apprentices, and businesses must not be lost, and they are ready to replicate the fantastic benefits delivered at Hinkley Point C with the near identical design for Sizewell C in Suffolk. 

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Labour Is Axeing London Weighting For Staff Not Working In Office Three Days A Week

4 min read

Labour is stripping staff working in the capital of their London salary weighting unless they go back into the office three days a week – a move unions have described as a “heavy handed threat”.

The announcement, sent via email to hundreds of employees just before leader Keir Starmer’s first party conference, has been criticised by Unite the Union who are directing staff to challenge the party if the additional pay is taken away without their consent.

An email sent from Labour’s ‘People and Talent Team’ to staff on 22 September, with the subject Return to Office Working, read: “For those colleagues who work in London, Parliament or the London/South East regional offices you need to bear in mind that eligibility for London Weighting depends on working for at least 3 days of the working week (or the pro-rated equivalent for part time colleagues) in a London office.

“If your working pattern doesn’t include this arrangement then London Weighting will be removed.”

Party staff have faced a tumultuous few months following general secretary Dave Evans’ announcement – first reported in The Guardian – that Labour was going to have to shed up to a third of its workforce by axing 90 jobs, and undergo a restructure due to a dire financial situation following significant legal payouts relating to anti-Semitism allegations. Compulsory redundancies were avoided when a voluntary scheme saw 80 people take a financial offer.

But for those continuing to work for the party in London, the news they will have their salary weighting removed unless they work from the office for three days a week has been described as a “punch to the guts”.

A Unite spokesperson said: “Unite have made it clear to the party this is heavy handed and an unnecessary tactic as an employer. They should be looking to encourage staff back to the office, not threatening them.

“We are advising our members to contact their reps and raise individual grievances for unlawful deductions of wages should they find their London weighting payment has been stopped without their prior agreement.”

Upset Labour employees believe it is not possible to automatically remove the weighting, as it is a change to the terms and conditions of a contract.

However, it is understood that the additional money, which is given to staff to support the higher cost of living in London and travel costs was always conditional on people attending work in the capital in person. The email said there had been consultation with trade unions but some staff said it read like a “fait accompli”.

On the weighting being stripped for people who will work from home, the email said Labour has “consulted the trade unions over these plans and we will continue to engage with them”.

The email also said that the party’s top priority was ensuring everyone is safe and the important work of the party is delivered to a high standard.

Party members are incensed by the email, and have said it was a particular kick in the teeth considering Evans then used his recent party conference speech to thank staff for their “dedication and hard work, that hasn’t faltered for a second”.

Eyebrows were raised when Evans claimed he was committed to winning elections “ward by ward, street by street, voter by voter”, considering there will be fewer staff left to try and achieve that.

Despite being appointed by Keir Starmer in May 2020, and endorsed by the party’s ruling body the National Executive Committee, his position as General Secretary was only confirmed at party conference in Brighton after a delegates’ vote. 

It passed 59% to 41% and followed considerable upset among members following the suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who still hasn’t had the whip restored in Parliament so he sits as a Labour MP.

A Labour staffer said: “I wasn’t the only one who felt sick and angry listening to Evans’ hypocritical rant at conference as he tried to cling to his job, boasting about things that might actually be possible if he wasn’t axing so many staff from HQ and the regions.

“After everything we’ve been through, people who have decided to stay are now being told their pay could be cut. What a punch to the guts.”

Labour has said they will listen to staff concerns, and will keep their position under review and continue to respond to developments for as long as the pandemic continues.

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UK Voters Are Majority Pro-Choice Across The Political Spectrum And Support Extension Of At-Home Abortion

Since April 2020, women have been able to access medical abortions at home (Alamy)

5 min read

Exclusive: The majority of people across the UK are pro-choice regardless of political affiliation and back the continuation of at-home abortion care beyond the pandemic, new polling reveals.

According to the survey of 2,001 people, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), 71% of Brits agree that “if a woman does not want to continue a pregnancy, she should be able to have an abortion”.

This trend is consistent across the political spectrum, with 70% of Conservatives in favour compared to 9% opposed, and 77% of Labour voters in favour versus 9% opposed.

The majority of Brits also support the continuation of at-home abortion services, after temporary measures were introduced at the start of the pandemic allow women and those seeking abortion care to take medical abortion tablets without visiting a clinic.

Previously women have had to take the first dose of the medication at a registered clinic, followed by the second dose at home. 

Those who voted Labour at the last election are more in support of the measures continuing, with 64% in favour, compared to those who voted Tory, who are 56% in favour.

Age also proved to be a significant factor in whether an individual is pro-choice — 68% of 16-to-24-year-olds said they supported women having an abortion, while on 51% of over 55s said the same.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said: “Telemedical early abortion care is supported by medical bodies including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women’s rights groups, and — as this polling makes clear — the majority of the public, across all political party allegiances.

“There is a vast body of clinical evidence that telemedical abortion care is safe, effective, and woman-centred.

“The ability to provide at-home early medical abortion treatment has led to shorter waiting times and a reduced rate of complications due to women being able to end pregnancies at the earliest possible gestation.”

She continued: “We must be clear — revoking access the telemedical abortion would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of women in need of abortion care.

“On the eve of Conservative Party Conference, the government has an opportunity to demonstrate that they are listening to the medical experts and that they are listening to women. We urge them to do so.”

Women’s groups and abortion charities have been calling for the continuation of temporary at-home aboriton measures since earlier this year.

The rule change came into force in April 2020 and is set to last until 31 March 2022, or until the mechanisms underpinning coronavirus regulations are lifted.

Previously, women and pregnant people seeking an early medical abortion — defined as the first nine weeks of pregnancy — were required to visit a registered clinic for their first mifepristone or misoprostol pill.

Since 2018, they have been able to take the second dose home, allowing them to control where they are when bleeding begins. 

A recent study by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, of more than 50,000 abortions in England and Wales, published in April 2021, concluded that abortion care provided virtually was “effective, safe, acceptable, and improves access to care”.

According to statistics from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 43% of medical abortions were administered at home between April and June 2020 at the height of the first lockdown.

Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, said the the findings of the BPAS survey “clearly shows the level of support for women being able to access early and safe abortion care when it is needed”.

“What we have seen with the introduction of telemedicine is an ability for women to access help earlier, in the comfort of their own homes, and waiting times have dropped,” she told PoliticsHome. 

“We all know that early treatment is far preferable, minimising the risk of complications.”

“The pandemic made life very difficult for women, both financially and in terms of the caring responsibilities they carried out.  

“Making this sort of medical care as accessible as possible has helped those who have to make incredibly difficult decisions, and we know making their lives easier is crucially important.

“I hope the Government has the courage to continue with telemedicine for abortion care, and this study shows there are significant benefits to that.”

The survey also showed support for the decriminalisation of abortion, with respondents asked how they felt about a woman ending her pregnancy at home without attending a clinic once the temporary measures allowing this were lifted.

65% said they would not support a woman facing criminal prosecution for choosing to end their own pregnancy at home, while 13% were strongly in favour and 22% were somewhat in favour.

Labour MP Diana Johnson — who recently forced to withdraw her amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill aiming to decriminalise abortion — said the findings of the survey “must not be ignored”.

“During COVID-19, telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion has prevented tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics and has enabled many healthcare professionals to provide care from the safety of their own homes.”

“The APPG on Sexual and Reproductive Health heard from experts at its most recent event just how beneficial these measures have been for women and how important it is that they remain in place.”

“Abortion care must meet the needs of women. Today’s survey results show strong public support for ensuring policy reflects this.”

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Author of influential Govt review into UK construction labour receives CIOB President’s Award

Mark Farmer has been presented with the CIOB President’s Award for 2020/21. The award is given to someone within the last Presidential year that has worked as a champion for one of the Presidential themes, a true ambassador for CIOB.

CEO and founding director of consultancy Cast, with over 30 years of experience in construction and real estate, Mark Farmer has become a recognised expert on a variety of industry and policy-related issues. He authored the Farmer Review, an influential 2016 independent government review of the UK’s construction labour model, entitled ‘Modernise or Die’. 

Upon receiving the award, Mark said: 

“It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but this evening is one of those occasions. It means a lot in terms of being recognised, but it means even more because it’s CIOB. For me, what the Institution is doing in terms of pushing the agenda around quality and modernisation is so important. How change happens in our industry is through people, and everything I’ve seen this evening showcases how we are modernising, not dying. It’s absolutely gratifying to see so much excellence on display this evening.” 

In 2019, Mark was appointed as the Government’s champion for modern methods of construction in housebuilding. It is this focus on quality at every stage – the core theme of Past President Mark Beard’s term – that Mark Farmer has been awarded for his efforts. 

His other roles include being a member of the Construction Innovation Hub Industry Board, the Construction Leadership Council Senior Advisors group, a board member for Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, national co-chair of Constructing Excellence, while being a trustee of the MOBIE educational charity. Mark is also an honorary professor at The University of Salford’s School of Built Environment and holds honorary doctorates from the University College of Estate Management and the University of Wolverhampton. 

Mark Beard FCIOB, former President of CIOB 2020/21, said: 

“I am delighted to award Mark Farmer the CIOB President’s Award. Mark has done more than anyone else to introduce new ways of working into our industry, with a relentless focus on promoting modern methods of construction, with all its benefits for our industry’s profile, productivity, long-term profitability and overall product quality. I am proud to be able to acknowledge his work in driving real long-term change in our industry and lifting quality standards.”

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Six decades on, Coca-Cola’s Sidcup site is leading the way on sustainability

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners’ Sidcup site is celebrating its 60th anniversary

This week the first of our 500ml bottles made from 100% recycled plastic have come off the line at our Sidcup factory. This is just the start of our green journey as strive to become Net Zero by 2040 – and Sidcup is at the heart of our sustainbility plans

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of visiting our team at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners in Sidcup to honour the site’s 60th anniversary. It’s always fantastic to visit our sites, but after such a challenging 18 months, it was especially rewarding to come together with colleagues here and celebrate such an incredible milestone.

Our local MP James Brokenshire was sadly unable to attend our celebrations due to his current health issues, but we’re proud that he has been a champion of our Sidcup factory for many years. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to be able to welcome him back to the site very soon.

Having been part of the local business landscape for six decades we have seen generations of local families join our team during that time. The people and the communities we work with play a big part in the success of the Coca-Cola brand and the Sidcup site remains a vital part of our operations in Great Britain – with a 350 strong workforce and a further 3,855 jobs estimated to be created indirectly by our presence.

The site produces some of the nation’s best-loved brands, including Coca-Cola original taste, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Lilt, Sprite, Schweppes and Capri-Sun, and is the only site in GB to produce 150ml and 250ml cans.

We’re marking the 60th anniversary by investing a further £28million in Sidcup. The funds will be used to install a new state-of-the-art high-speed canning line – set to open in June 2022 – which will produce up to 2,000 cans per minute, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of innovation within our business.

This latest investment also underscores our ongoing commitment to the site and to the local area, with the new line set to open up a further 19 new job roles and bring further benefits to the local economy.

Crucially, the investment we’re making in Sidcup isn’t just about increasing our manufacturing capacity, it is also representing an important point in our sustainability journey, helping us to achieve the goals set out in our This is Forward action plan.

We’ve already made good progress in making the site more sustainable in recent years, reducing its carbon footprint by 26% since 2010, using 100% renewable energy to power our operations, and ensuring that we send zero waste to landfill. The site’s Automated Storage Retrieval System (ASRS) has significantly increased efficiencies across the supply chain, saving 3,687 tonnes of CO2 per year and 10,817 road miles by HGV trucks.

Our investment will accelerate these carbon savings even further, helping us in our mission to become net zero by 2040.

The Sidcup site has also spearheaded other important sustainability projects over the past twelve months. We recently announced the transition to 100% recycled plastic in our 500ml bottles with the first bottles coming off our line at Sidcup this week. It was also the first site to produce our shrink to board packs earlier this year, which saw plastic shrink wrap being replaced with 100% recyclable cardboard packaging. This transition saves almost 1,000 tonnes of plastic per year from the Sidcup site. We’re working to transition our multipacks to board at all other GB sites by the end of 2021.

We’ve also committed to making other packaging as sustainable as possible. Through light weighting our cans, they now weigh 22% less than two years ago. The lightness of aluminium packaging helps to save resources during filling, transportation and storage, all of which reduces the carbon impact and helps us to progress towards out net zero goal.

This is just the start for our Sidcup factory and I very much look forward to continuing this journey with our people and the local community over the coming years.



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Lessons of the Covid procurement process

4 min read

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, government was granted extraordinary powers by parliament and made extensive use of emergency procurement regulations to award contracts for goods and services without tender. But the need to act fast did not give government licence to act fast and loose.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been keeping a close watch on the eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ money spent on Covid. By the end of July 2020, more than 8,600 contracts had been awarded, with a value of £18bn. The lion’s share was let by the Department of Health and Social Care with a total value of £16.2bn.

To set this in context, in 2019-20 the department awarded 174 contracts worth £1.1bn, less than seven per cent of the value of contracts it and its national bodies awarded between January and July 2020 in response to the pandemic. By value, the Department for Education’s group was the second largest (£556m), followed by the Cabinet Office (£279m).

But despite these huge sums, the government did not publish contracts in time and kept poor records of why some companies won multimillion-pound contracts. Of the 1,644 contracts awarded across government up to the end of July 2020 with a value more than £25,000, 75 per cent were not published within the 90-day target.

There are nearly 10,000 sea containers of PPE sitting on docksides and in warehouses costing £6.7m a week to store

Ministers have repeatedly argued that worrying about paperwork was not a priority. But the lack of transparency fuelled concern about the fairness of awards. While millions of people were shielding or tightening their belts, the public was rightly concerned to see middlemen earning enough off the back of taxpayer-funded contracts to buy country estates.

The committee has kept a particularly watchful eye on procurement and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

PPE accounted for 80 per cent of the number of contracts awarded, and 68 per cent of the total value. Across government, more than 6,900 contracts were awarded, totalling £12.3bn. In order to triage offers to supply PPE, the government established a “high-priority lane” for recommendations made through ministers, government officials, MPs, and members of the House of Lords. Records on why these companies were fast-tracked were limited or non-existent.

Ministers remain defensive about their approach, but Whitehall has acknowledged that lessons need to be learnt. The Cabinet Office commissioned and accepted the recommendations of a review by Nigel Boardman into Covid-19 contracts to improve procurement processes and the way government manages actual and perceived conflicts of interest. It also accepted in full the National Audit Office’s recommendations for improving procurement.

While the story over PPE contracts is not yet over (only this month we have been alerted to another instance of an established PPE supplier failing to win a contract), the PAC is turning its attention to the PPE stockpile.

There are nearly 10,000 sea containers of PPE sitting on docksides and in warehouses costing £6.7m a week to store. Around 2.1 billion items have been found to be unsuitable for use in medical settings, equating to more than £2bn of taxpayers’ money.

The government is yet to create any robust plans for repurposing and distributing PPE that is not fit for medical use and has not yet identified where costs could be recovered due to undelivered or substandard PPE.

The PAC recently published a report summarising lessons from its 20 evidence sessions on the government’s response to the pandemic.

One of the key messages that we mustn’t lose sight of is that government is spending hard-earned taxpayers’ money. The storage costs for PPE equates to nearly £350m a year. The entire NHS budget in 2019-20 was £123bn (rising to £149bn in the year of the pandemic). On top of that, £37bn has been allocated to the first two years of Test and Trace. This is serious money. The PAC is clear about its role challenging spending and why transparency and value-for-money has never been more important.


Meg Hillier is the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and chair of the Public Accounts Committee. 

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How can you make the most of this year’s Conservative Party Conference?

Alex Hancock

4 min read

Over four days, Conservative Party Conference attracts a wide array of people connected to and interested in the Conservative Party, including members, politicians, journalists, and lobbyists; and across the Main Hall, Exhibition zone, bars and Fringe Events, there’s always something happening. With so much going on in such a short space of time, how can you make sure you make the most of this year’s Party Conference?

Read the Fringe Guide
Navigating the hundreds of fringes can be a difficult process, particularly if you rely on winging it. The Party releases the handbook along with your ticket – so make sure you have a look and familiarise yourself with the events you’re keen to go to.

Download the App and follow #CPC21
As well as reading the fringe guide, it’s worth downloading the Conference app. There’s a handy scheduler, which will alert you before events start, speaker updates, venue maps and the option to submit questions for fringe events, as well as other features.

It’s also worth following the Conference hashtag #CPC21 across social media – some events aren’t on the app or handbook, and it’s a good way of checking out what’s popular with the membership and public affairs professionals.

Visit the Exhibition
The exhibition is always fun to walk around, see famous faces and grab freebies. Make sure you have a go at the interactive stalls, and photo opportunities, and if there’s a point during Conference you feel overwhelmed, find the Guide Dogs for a quick cuddle!

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger
With the variety of attendees drawn to Conference, you could end up sat next to a councillor, lobbyist, or even an MP. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger, you could end up with a new contact, or even a friend!

Finding that perfect MP
If there’s a key Secretary of State or Minister on your stakeholder list, you might think Conference is the perfect opportunity to corner them for a chat about your work. In reality, Conference is vast, and high-level politicians are often flagged by large security teams and won’t have time to stop for a chat. If you’re struggling to find who you’re looking for, try attending a fringe event where they are speaking on a panel, and raise your issue through a question instead.

Make yourself heard
Get your voice heard. Asking a question at a fringe event is a good way to raise the profile of your issue, and you’ll be surprised how many people will want to know more about your work post-fringe. However, during events, make sure you keep questions short and relevant, rather than making long statements that are difficult for speakers to respond to.

Factor in time between events
Make sure you leave plenty of time between events, factoring in bumping into people you know on the way. Don’t miss opportunities by having too tight a schedule and allow for flexibility!

Head to the Midland Bar
The Midland Bar is the hub of Party Conference in Manchester. As Manchester Central and the Exhibition close for the evening, everyone heads to the Midland Hotel for evening fringe events and networking at the bar. It’s the perfect place to spot MPs, meet new people and put the world to rights over a gin and tonic.

Start Early
After a night in the Midland, you might not think there’s anything worse than heading into Conference early. However, there’s lots of early breakfast events, often with interesting speakers. Perhaps more importantly, you can grab that much needed bacon roll hangover cure!

Wear comfortable shoes!
Conference is a long four days, and opportunities to sit down are few and far between. Events run from early in the morning to late at night, and there’s lots of walking, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes!

Queue early for the Prime Minister’s Speech
If you want to go to the PM’s speech on Wednesday morning, make sure you’re up early. It’s the most popular speech at Conference and to be guaranteed a seat in the auditorium, you’ll need join the queue a few hours beforehand.

Keep an eye out for who you’re sitting with, MPs and Ministers are always present.

If you miss out on a seat, or want to snooze your alarm, don’t worry! There’s also an overflow room where the speech is screened.

Follow up with new contacts
Conference doesn’t end when you get the train home – make sure you follow up with the new contacts you’ve made via a quick email or LinkedIn request.


Alex Hancock is the Political Engagement Manager at Dods, leading on high-level media and political campaigns, including the hugely successful Woman in Westminster: The 100.

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This World Ostomy Day let’s show people with stomas that they are not alone

Coloplast Ambassador, Kevin Baker | Credit: Coloplast UK

World Ostomy Day takes place every three years on the first Saturday in October. To mark this day on 2nd October, the stoma support charities (Colostomy UK, Ileostomy & Internal Pouch Association (IA), Urostomy Association) and Coloplast UK have teamed up to raise awareness of, and more importantly celebrate, people living with a stoma.

Whilst we believe that it is important for us all to be #StomaAware each and every day, we want to take this opportunity to increase the visibility of the amazing stoma community, both here and across the world.

A stoma (or ostomy) is a surgically created opening in the abdomen to divert the flow of faeces or urine so that it can collected in a bag1. Individuals of all ages can have a stoma and stoma surgery is undertaken to treat a wide range of illnesses including cancer, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease or following a trauma to the abdomen2. There are three main types of stoma: colostomy; ileostomy; and urostomy. A stoma can be temporary or permanent3.

People with a stoma are collectively known as ‘ostomates’ or ‘ostomists’. It is estimated that 165,000 – 200,000 people are living with a stoma in the UK. Approximately 21,000 people have stoma surgery each year4,5,6. Whatever the reason for the surgery, they will all have undergone life-changing surgery and received a diagnosis of a chronic condition. However, with the right care and good stoma management, many can live life to the full.

This does not mean living with a stoma is easy and some individuals can feel isolated by what can feel like a “hidden condition”. Ostomates may have concerns about how their stoma looks, about possible leakage or skin issues, or smells even though ostomy products have been designed to be odour-proof and discreet. In addition, some ostomates are uncomfortable using public toilet facilities particularly if there are no waste bins to place their used products. Travelling, working, or socialising may also be worrying for this reason.

We know that adjusting to life with a stoma can be difficult at first, but we also know that it is possible for people to enjoy an active and full life. There are amazing individuals doing amazing things every day, who just happen to have a stoma. These people might be firefighters, rugby players, nurses, and teachers; the list goes on.

So what can you do to support World Ostomy Day? Please click here to find out more information about stomas, our organisations, and the support, advice and help available to ostomates, their families and carers. Let’s all work together to raise awareness of this vibrant and inspiring community, so that individuals with stomas know that they are not alone today or any day.

This article was initiated and funded by Coloplast UK and Ireland, and developed in partnership with Colostomy UK, Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Association, and Urostomy Association.


1. https://www.colostomyuk.org/information/what-is-a-stoma/
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. NHS Digital. NHS Digital Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity 2020.
5. Colostomy UK. Step Up for Stomas 2021. 2021 [Available from: https://www.colostomyuk.org/active-ostomates/step-up-for-stomas/.]
6. British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). Estimated number of ostomates in the UK. 202

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Robots are the key to future proof nuclear decommissioning

Credit: Sellafield

We have seen what can be achieved with robotics at Sellafield. Now is the time to realise their long-term potential.

Last month, over 350 attendees from across the globe joined a virtual nuclear decommissioning event and heard about the exciting world of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Sellafield and across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) group.

The Nuclear Engineering International conference included a presentation from five Sellafield Ltd representatives who highlighted how robots are creating a clean and safe environment through land, air and water.

Rav Chunilal, head of Robotics and AI at Sellafield Ltd set the scene by describing how robotics can bring benefits of cost and schedule reduction to the UK taxpayer, build innovation and strengthen collaboration with industry and academia.

He said: “The UK has a huge decommissioning challenge, and I’m delighted that robotics and AI has been recognised as one of the front runners in achieving this mission.

“We are not just looking at the challenges at the Sellafield site, but also across the NDA group’s UK sites. This is a growing field, we need to pick up the pace and embed this work into business as usual in a safe and secure manner.

 “Robots can be used to perform repetitive, difficult and time-consuming jobs remotely – freeing up our people to take on roles that are more fulfilling and rewarding, ultimately helping deliver our organisations purpose. We will focus on the long-term uses of these technologies as they continue to develop and evolve.”

Robotics Programme Manager Chris Ballard then highlighted how in water ‘we need our robots to scour our ponds, pick up and cut material and then sort the nuclear inventory sitting underneath the surface.

‘We’re currently developing ‘tetherless’ underwater robots with basic artificial intelligence, which can move around our ponds with minimal human intervention – and without the usual heavy connection that can get caught and impede operations.’

On land, Capability Development manager Chris Hope discussed how ‘we require robotic systems to remotely characterise, dismantle and treat the waste that is generated from decommissioning. 

‘We are exploring a range of solutions that could enable safer, faster, better value remediation of nuclear sites.  These include remote waste cutting facilities using industrial robots and lasers, large scale in-situ decommissioning platforms and most recently Boston Dynamics SPOT the quadruped robot’.  

We will focus on the long-term uses of these technologies as they continue to develop and evolve

Legacy Ponds ROV manager Keith Pickup explained how ‘Sellafield Ltd continues to work with our colleagues in the National Nuclear Laboratory and supply chain to develop solutions. For example, the newly developed remote operated vehicle (ROV) had to negotiate a 30-metre vertical drop in to water before travelling through a 20m inspection route around obstacles.

‘The ROV they built – with extra tough components and extra radiation shielding – has now been successfully tested in our ponds, giving a better understanding of the store condition and evidence Sellafield can use to plan future stores. It is also fully reusable and can be sent back in to check on possible degradation over time.’

Engineering & Maintenance Remote Handling Lead Peter Allport then discussed how in the air, ‘we have identified drones that can carry out detailed infrastructure inspections quickly and safely, at a reduced cost.

‘The inclusion of artificial intelligence means that they can operate independently and spot degradation much sooner. The UAV team at Sellafield has been at the forefront of developing and trialling flights beyond visual line of sight in the UK with sees.ai and the Civil Aviation Authority.’

With robots being such a fundamental part of our future, and new opportunities for their use being identified all the time, the robotics and AI team has set up a new joint venture incubator, The Robotics and AI Centre in nearby Whitehaven.

Chris Ballard added: “The Robotics and AI Centre will enable us to collaborate with our partners on innovation and R&D in solving real challenges under one roof, bring together the work being done by robots across Sellafield and build on the opportunities they offer. This will be the stepping stone to realising greater benefits for a much larger Robotics and AI Collaborative space in West Cumbria.”

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