Tory attack on Blair over health backfires

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Tory attempts to attack Tony Blair over the state of the National Health Service appeared to backfire last night amid suggestions that a 94-year-old woman had refused to allow ethnic-minority nurses to care for her.

Tory attempts to attack Tony Blair over the state of the National Health Service appeared to backfire last night amid suggestions that a 94-year-old woman had refused to allow ethnic-minority nurses to care for her.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, clashed with the Prime Minister yesterday after claims that Rose Addis had been kept waiting in a casualty department for three days to be given a bed.

Mr Blair refused to apologise and backed the Whittington Hospital in north London, which denied her family's claim that staff had left her unwashed, unchanged and caked in blood for days after she cut her head in a fall at home.

Last night, the Conservatives found themselves on the defensive. The hospital said Mrs Addis was offered a change of clothes but refused help from ethnic-minority nurses. James Malone-Lee, the clinical director at the Whittington, said the patient had made clear that she did not want to be changed by "that sort of nurse".

When asked by BBC's Newsnight if he meant black or Asian nurses, Mr Malone-Lee said: "I can imagine that people could deduce that." He said that he did not want to be more explicit because he wanted to avoid "inflaming" the controversy. He also accused Mr Duncan Smith of failing to check the facts.

The Conservative leader had raised the alleged neglect of Mrs Addis yesterday at Prime Minister's Question Time. The patient's 72-year-old daughter lives in his constituency and he endorsed her criticism of the hospital after speaking to her.

Both leaders staked their credibility on their version of events in a dispute that echoed "the war of Jennifer's ear" during the 1992 general election, when a Labour Party political broadcast featured a "true story" about a girl awaiting an ear operation. The Tories did not apparently speak to the Whittington Hospital before launching the attack. The Government had not spoken to the family of Mrs Addis, which has lodged a complaint about her treatment.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Commons that two days after entering the hospital, her clothes had still not been changed. "Her daughter had to borrow a bowl of water to wash the blood that had become caked on her mother's hands and feet," he said. The Tory leader added that Mrs Addis's daughter had told him: "If my poor mother had been a dog she would have been treated better" and that even though her family had voted Labour for three generations they had "never been so disgusted with any government as this one".

But Mr Blair criticised "misleading and inaccurate" newspaper reports about the case and said the hospital "strongly disputed" the family's claim that Mrs Addis was left untended for days. He accused the Tories of "denigrating" the NHS because they wanted people to pay for private treatment.

The Tories accused Labour of trying to "spin" its way out of trouble after Mr Blair read out a letter from the hospital's chief executive that spoke of "years of under-investment" in the NHS. Downing Street quoted the hospital as saying that Mrs Addis was "confused" and denied the Government played any part in drafting the letter.

Mr Blair's official spokes-man insisted that Mrs Addis had been treated properly, saying it would not have been appropriate to wash her hair until her head wound, which had continued to bleed, had healed.

Downing Street also insisted that the Addis family made the case public. But Mr Blair was accused of "hypocrisy" by the Patients' Association because he had pleaded confidentiality over whether his son has been given the MMR vaccine.

Comments