JANET STREET-PORTER: The images that shame the NHS

JANET STREET-PORTER: The images that shame the NHS: As two stricken pensioners are left without any dignity or care, why I’m praying I don’t need an ambulance this winter

This is what can happen if you call 999 in modern Britain. These stories shame ‘our’ NHS and make a mockery of the word care. They’re not taking place in a war zone, but here in the UK, waiting for help to arrive.

In Denbigh last September, Keith Royles fell and broke his hip. The 85-year-old terminal cancer patient was forced to lie in agony on his concrete patio in the rain under a plastic sheet for SEVEN HOURS – even though he lives opposite a hospital. When the ambulance finally turned up, the crew wanted to take Keith to A&E THIRTY miles away, but his family insisted he went to one over the road!

Eighty-seven-year old David Wakeley fell in his garden in Cornwall last August, suffering cuts, breaking seven ribs and fracturing his pelvis. He suffers from prostate cancer and wears a catheter. Surely help should have arrived immediately. Dream on. Family members were forced to build a shelter out of a football net to keep David dry as he lay in agony in the dark. The ambulance – promised on Monday evening – finally turned up FIFTEEN HOURS later, at 11am on Tuesday.

Stephen Syms’ 90-year-old mother was at home in Cornwall on a Sunday evening when she fell and an ambulance was called. It took FORTY HOURS to arrive and she then spent another TWENTY HOURS waiting to be admitted to A&E.

Keith Royles, an 85-year-old cancer patient from Denbigh, was forced to lie in agony on his concrete patio for seven hours, writes JANET STREET-PORTER

Ambulance waiting times are shocking, shameful and utterly unacceptable. The latest NHS figures show that ‘targets’ are a hopeless dream, that the reality is chaos and confusion. The people who are suffering the most during this crisis are not the NHS staff, no matter how justified their claim for higher wages might be.

The real victims are the customers – or the clients – whatever the woke NHS calls us now.

The sick, the elderly, the poor sods lying in pools of their own vomit and wee in their tidy bungalows and flats, hoping and praying an ambulance will arrive within the next day before they lose consciousness, having slipped or suffered a stroke or a heart attack.

Ken Shadbolt was a fit 94-year-old who loved cycling around the streets of Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds.

One night earlier this year, he got out of bed to go to the bathroom, slipped and fell, hitting the wardrobe. Luckily, his phone was within reach. Ken called 999 and then rang his son who lived some distance away, telling him not to bother coming over as help would arrive soon.

During the next two hours, Ken called the service twice more, saying “I am going to fade away….I can’t reach the duvet”. By now he was in huge pain and losing consciousness, terrified his phone battery would give out. During the final heartbreaking call Ken desperately pleads “please tell them to hurry up or I’ll be dead”. The ambulance arrived FIVE hours after the initial call, and Ken died early that afternoon in hospital. A death which surely could have been prevented if care had arrived earlier. I hope that the boss of the local NHS Trust has that on their conscience.

How can the Prime Minister let another day go by without banging some NHS bosses’ heads together to sort our the pay disputes, the unacceptable waiting times and the fact that the NHS is a top-heavy dinosaur bedevilled by bureaucracy and systems failure, where bosses are overpaid and those on the coal-face are expected to work like saints and slaves?

Eighty-seven-year old David Wakeley fell in his garden in Cornwall last August, suffering cuts, breaking seven ribs and fracturing his pelvis

Along with nurses, ambulance workers, call handlers, drivers and paramedics plan to go on strike this Christmas and the Prime Minister is considering bringing in the army. About 2,000 military personnel and volunteers are current being trained to plug the gaps and provide a skeleton service.

Paramedics earn over £27,000 and a soldier gets just over £21,000 and army bosses are furious that their men and women will be missing Christmas.

How can ambulance workers go on strike for more money than soldiers? The latest NHS figures show it is on the brink of collapse, even without the extra pressures these walk outs will cause. The crisis is caused by chronic understaffing and bed blocking- with elderly people trapped in hospital because of a lack of social care provision.

The result is a meltdown at the entry point into the system.

Janet Street-Porter 

Almost 48,000 people in England and Wales waited more than 12 hours in A&E in October, up a third from the month before, and higher than any times since 2010. More people than ever waited over four hours to be seen.

NHS waiting lists for treatment reached an all-time high of 7.1 million during September, 100,000 up on August, while 2239 people have been waiting for more than two years.

If the NHS was a car it would have gone to the knackers’ yards years ago. Now the GPs – those over-paid, elusive doctors who believe that Zoom calls and fancy websites can replace face-to-face care – are being entreated to go on strike to join the nurses and show support.

Rishi Sunak wants to raise the threshold of votes required for strike action, and introduce laws which require a minimum service to be provided at all times. He still hasn’t announced that the army will definitely be called in over Christmas, perhaps praying that a seasonal miracle might happen and more NHS money rains down on us from on high.

Isn’t it time he stopped being a manager and started behaving like a leader? This isn’t a dispute in goods inward in a department store or the tool shop in a car factory. The NHS requires a top-to-bottom complete overhaul, stripping out the fat-cat executives and the Mickey Mouse jobs like ‘improvement directors’.

The NHS is sick – and needs ruthless surgery. Users need to accept we’ll have to pay for some services and not expect doctors to treat minor injuries and conditions. Hospitals need residential departure lounges – like those useless Nightingale wards built during Covid – to house the fit awaiting rehoming and carers.

Most of all, the NHS needs a visionary, a person who can work a miracle and inspire the workforce.

I’m praying for a solution – before I fall over in the middle of the night and have to call an ambulance. 

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