Boris Johnson confronted by angry father on hospital visit: ‘The NHS has been destroyed’

‘What do you mean there’s no press here, who are these people?’ PM asked, after appearing to deny journalists present for visit

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 18 September 2019 15:00 BST
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Angered parent confronts Boris Johnson at hospital over NHS cuts

Boris Johnson has been confronted by an angry parent over NHS cuts during a hospital visit.

Omar Salem, whose baby daughter was being treated at Whipps Cross University Hospital in east London, told the prime minister: “The NHS has been destroyed ... and now you come here for a press opportunity.”

In a heated two-minute exchange, the father claimed there had been “years and years and years of the NHS being destroyed” and told Mr Johnson it was “not acceptable”.

Mr Salem, a Labour activist, said: “There are not enough people on this ward, there are not enough doctors, there’s not enough nurses, it’s not well organised enough.”

Mr Johnson said “there’s no press here” but the parent gestured to cameras filming the confrontation and said: “What do you mean there’s no press here, who are these people?”

The prime minister explained he was “here to find out” about the situation but Mr Salem said: “It’s a bit late isn’t it? Years and years and years of the NHS being destroyed.”

After the pictures emerged, Mr Salem tweeted: “Boris Johnson had the temerity to come to Whipps Cross Hospital for a press opportunity on the children’s ward that my 7 day old daughter is on, having been admitted to A&E yesterday gravely ill.

“The A&E team were great but she then went for hours on the ward without seeing a doctor.

“Boris Johnson has been an MP, Mayor of London, Cabinet Minister and now PM while the NHS has been neglected, just as my daughter was last night.

“Rather than drips of money for press opportunities he should get on with properly supporting the NHS so that patients get the care they deserve, there is adequate staffing with good working conditions and worried fathers like me can have some peace of mind.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister said the man was understandably “very distressed” and the prime minister was “not going to hide away from those circumstances when he goes on these visits, and so obviously is keen to talk to people and empathise and see what he can do to help”.

“It’s also a reminder of why exactly he is so keen to make the NHS a priority and make sure it’s getting the funding that it requires,” the spokesperson added.

Alan Gurney, chief executive of Whipps Cross hospital, apologised for the care given to Mr Salem’s seven-day-old daughter.

He said: “We are constantly reviewing staffing levels on our wards to ensure our patients are safe at all times, but occasionally – as in fact happened on this ward last night – an unexpected emergency in one part of the hospital can cause a temporary pressure elsewhere.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused the prime minister of refusing to be honest with the public.

“He can make as many phoney announcements on the NHS as he likes but he can’t hide from the truth, or from patients,” he said.

“The Tories have plunged the health service into crisis through years of cuts and privatisation and the prime minister can’t run from the consequences this has had for patient care.

“You can’t trust the Tories because, as Johnson’s top adviser admits, they don’t care about our NHS.”

It comes after a series of embarrassing public confrontations for the prime minister, as he continues on a series of unofficial election visits across the country.

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Mr Johnson was collared by a woman on a walkabout in Doncaster, who said he had a “cheek” to visit the town after the impact of austerity and accused him of spinning a Brexit “fairytale”.

Hours later, his speech in Rotherham was interrupted by an angry heckler, who demanded to know why he was not in parliament “sorting out the mess”.

However, the prime minister’s approval ratings have risen to -16 from -20 when he was appointed as prime minister, according to YouGov.

Jeremy Corbyn’s overall favourability was ranked at -49.

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