Pregnant woman with critically ill mother goes viral in a plea for public to vote Labour and save NHS

Frustrated with Theresa May’s ‘lies’ about the NHS, Rebekah Hodgson shared her personal experience of hospitals

Harriet Marsden
Sunday 04 June 2017 20:04
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Rebekah Hodgson, right, and her mother Juliana Hodgson
Rebekah Hodgson, right, and her mother Juliana Hodgson

A woman's powerful account of her personal experience of the NHS has been shared by thousands in the run up to the general election.

Rebekah Hodgson, a seven-month pregnant teacher, took to social media after watching Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced off on Sky News / Channel 4's ‘The Battle for No 10’.

In Ms Hodgson's Facebook post, which has been shared more than 34 thousand times, she said she felt “compelled” to share her mother’s experience of the NHS during three years of treatment for breast cancer after she “watched May lie about the state of our NHS”.

Ms May faced a tough grilling on her over NHS “efficiences", yet pledged to spend half a trillion pounds on the NHS in future.

A midwife from Devon retorted: “I see a lot of efficiency savings that are actually cuts. I see hospitals closing. I see staff that are at their wits end because they cannot give the care they want to give.”

Echoing what is fast becoming a common refrain since both parties began to campaign, Ms Hodgson’s post explains: “I was not necessarily the biggest Corbyn fan...”

Ms Hodgson refers to the well-documented struggles faced by the NHS: chronic staff shortages, dangerously long waits, the scrapping of bursaries for training nursing staff and the treatment of immigrant employees, particularly in the uncertain future created by Brexit.

​She urged voters to “come down here and spend time on these wards,” and consider the importance of the NHS before casting their ballot on 8 June.

“I know people are impassioned about Brexit and nuclear weaponry and anti-terorrism, but none of that means anything if we cannot give our loved ones respect and care [...] What would Manchester have done without the NHS?”

In an interview with The Independent, Ms Hodgson explains that over the past three years, the care in the Royal Berkshire Hospital has been “phenomenal” in dealing with her mother Juliana’s cancer, especially when she contracted pneumonia twice during chemotherapy.

But last week lack of sufficient staff meant Juliana Hodgson was waiting all hours before someone could help her to the toilet.

“She went into heart failure on Thursday, and we didn’t know if we were going to lose her," Ms Hodgson says.

"We had to wait – not because the staff were standing around, or because they didn’t have fantastic bedside manners, or because they didn‘t come and check on us – but because of the hordes of patients there.

“There simply wasn’t enough staff. When I compare the experience of 2014 to 2017, it’s very different. I can see the tiredness on some of these people’s faces.”

Ms H​odgson also criticised Ms May for her stance on immigration.

Many are concerned that the Prime Minister‘s perceived reluctance to guarantee the future of migrant and EU workers, coupled with the so-called ‘hard Brexit’ that she champions, will force disgruntled employees to strike or quit the NHS.

The Institute for Public Policy Research previously said there were around 44,000 EU nationals working in the NHS, without whom “the NHS would collapse”.

Ms Hodgon describes how, feeling panicked and overwhelmed at the news that her mother might not survive the night, a consultant took her hand and waited with her because he did not want to leave her alone.

She highlights the fact that the doctor was an immigrant, “because I knew people would say that the problems are caused by immigrants using the NHS”.

“But look at everything immigration does for the NHS. That’s something that Corbyn seems to understand," she said.

“The consultant mentioned he was supposed to finish work five hours previously, but he saw I had no one with me so he wanted to make sure I was OK. It was just so human.”

She explains how she had come to her decision to vote Labour, echoing several common points of criticism surrounding Mr Corbyn.

​“I’ve been on the fence about Corbyn, largely based his involvement with unions and his reluctance to campaign for Remain, which put me off as I was quite a staunch Remain voter," she said.

"But over time, I started thinking that when he spoke there was a certain humility that made me warm to him.

“As far as I could see, he did try to answer questions truthfully, even when they weren't necessarily going to be popular answers.”

Compared to Ms May’s “flippant responses to something that’s so close to people’s hearts,” Ms Hodgson says Mr Corbyn “didn’t give these sweeping statements [...] I’m sick of the phrase ‘strong and stable’.”

Ms Hodgson also attacked May’s high-profile comments made during the BBC’s Question Time leaders special, to a nurse concerned with her low pay and the one per cent increase – as compared to the rise in inflation of more than two per cent.

The Prime Minister responded: “There isn’t a magic money tree that we can shake that suddenly provides for everything that people want.”

Ms Hodgson said that while she had received many negative comments about the photo of herself and her mother that she included with the Facebook post, calling it “inappropriate,” she believes it’s important that people face the truth.

“It’s no different to a picture at Easter or Christmas,” she said.

“I don’t see why society should shy away from grief and illness. This is the reality of the situation. As teachers we couldn’t have afforded private healthcare. This is why we need our NHS.”

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