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Health News

Martha: If I had relied on the NHS, I would be dead now

Martha Lane Fox, who founded the travel website lastminute.com and whose name became synonymous with the dot.com boom at the turn of the Millennium, criticised the "huge layer of unnecessary bureaucracy" that she observed in the NHS and revealed she paid for her own nurses because the staff in the intensive care unit were so under-resourced.

Ms Fox, who stepped down from lastminute.com two years ago, suffered severe injuries in a car accident while on holiday in Morocco on 2 May last year.

After the accident, she was taken to Rabat and then privately flown home to one of Britain's leading teaching hospitals, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where she says that doctors saved her life.

She left hospital in April this year but requires constant physiotherapy and has only just stopped using her wheelchair. Her experiences have left her reflecting on what she claims is the mismanagement of the NHS which she blames on Labour.

In an interview with The Independent, she said: "I'm lucky ... I had my own private nurses in addition to the NHS nurses. I had to have carers looking after me all the time because there was a stage when I couldn't lift any limbs and had to ring a bell to have a sip of water and they were just far too stretched."

She added: "But even then there seemed to be two managers to every nurse. There seems to have been added a huge layer of unnecessary bureaucracy ... I voted Labour but it seems something's got lost along the way.

"I constantly think that if I had no money I would have been in hospital six months longer because I have had private care at home for a long time. I would have physio once or twice a week which I would have had to get to and from myself. I think my progress of recovery if I'm lucky will be a couple of years. If I hadn't had cash to help me I think it could have been anything between two and five years, if I had made it. If I made it, and I mean that with all seriousness."

She acknowledged that "getting me from the accident was absolutely critical". But she added: "I needed round-the-clock care that I provided of my own in addition to the job the nurses were doing and that was through no fault of the nurses.

"Many of them were fantastic and I owe them an enormous debt but I was just so ill and so infected very often and so unable to do a single thing for myself."

She said it is only since she has been able to collect her thoughts that she came to the conclusion. "I'm constantly staggered by the dedication of the frontline of the NHS. I was in an NHS hospital initially, my life was saved by an A&E trauma unit in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

"And the team there were fantastic ... but the lack of resources they had and the lack of, what seemed to me, power to nurses who are dealing with stuff every day, something's gone screwy. They are pumping all this money into the NHS and yet it doesn't seem to be getting to the people that need it.

"There's a whole big chunk in the middle of the NHS that needs to be re-evaluated."