Letter: NHS rationing

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Sir: Health Secretary Frank Dobson was recently on television again, complacently quoting statistics intended to prove that NHS reforms are proceeding according to plan and soon all will be well.

I know of a man in his early fifties living in western Cornwall who suffered acute pain in the night caused by a swollen prostate gland, a condition of which he had no previous warning. A locum GP sent for an ambulance. The paramedics inserted a catheter and the following morning the patient learnt that there was a two-month waiting list for the necessary operation.

This was distressing news for a man who, apart from having to live with pain and discomfort, was, as a self-employed tradesman, deprived of his livelihood. In the following three weeks he had to be taken twice to hospital.

By now he and his wife had had enough. He withdrew his savings, his two sons sold their motorbikes and his widowed mother contributed a large sum from her savings. Within 48 hours he had the operation by private surgery, at the cost of impoverishment to three generations of a family. I would call them a "safety net" family.

Frank Dobson thinks there is a shortage of surgeons. I think there are plenty of surgeons hovering around the health service waiting for patients' cries of physical and mental agony.

Tony Blair seems to think we can wait up to 10 years for the NHS to be brought up to Western world standards. Both of them should make an effort to find out what it can be like to be seriously ill when you live at the bottom of the pile. Perhaps the NHS was safer in her hands.

FREDERICK H WYKES

Ashley Green, Buckinghamshire

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