The Tory neglect of Whipps Cross hospital left me suffering without morphine and trapped in bed

I know first hand why Omar Salem was right to confront the prime minister about what his party has done to our NHS

James Moore
Thursday 19 September 2019 13:28 BST
Angered parent confronts Boris Johnson at hospital over NHS cuts

Ah spin doctors. This morning Boris Johnson, or whoever looks after his Twitter feed, said he was “glad” about the confrontation with a father at an East London hospital. Hearing people’s views was “part of my job,” he declared.

I suppose this was an attempt to seem magnanimous, even prime ministerial, which is something Johnson struggles with, while his ugly mob of supporters were descending on said father, Omar Salem.

He’s a Labour activist, as if that has any relevance at all to the issue at hand: having a sick child left in a ward and not getting the treatment she needed because of a lack of cash and of doctors.

The behaviour of Johnson’s army of trolls was quite despicable. They have displayed a shocking lack of human decency. So did those parts of the media who focussed on Mr Salem’s political leanings rather than the issue at hand he sought to raise: the shortage of funds the hospital is grappling with courtesy of Johnson’s minority Tory government and those that went before it.

Choosing Whipps as a place to visit shows (once again) that his team really aren’t as clever as they are reputed to be, and seem to think they are.

Five minutes on Google would have told them that this is a hospital that has had problems. And they go back a long way.

The signs were there in 2011, when the Tories were just getting started with austerity. That was when I was transferred there from the nearby Royal London, whose doctors and nurses saved my life after I was knocked off my bike and crushed under the wheels of a cement truck.

I spent much of the first night at Whipps in agonising pain because a doctor couldn’t be found to approve the meds, including morphine, I’d been already prescribed at the Royal.

I spent a weekend confined to my bed because, once again, a doctor couldn’t be found to approve my transfer to a chair. That was just maddeningly frustrating as opposed to being a torture.

But you get the drift. You can perhaps see why Mr Salem’s story, and his anger, resonated so strongly with me when I read about it.

“You don’t fix a problem by throwing money at it,” is something you often hear from Conservatives. Looking back at its history it’s clear that Whipps hasn’t been terribly well run. In the period between my stay and that of Mr Salem’s daughter, it became part of the huge Barts NHS Trust.

It spent four years in special measures after a devastating report by the Care Quality Commission back in 2015.

But it is also clearly needs money that it has been starved of by Johnson’s party, by the governments of which he has been part.

A doctor who met him during the fateful visit subsequently told the Guardian the place was held together by the hard work and dedication of staff, but that this couldn’t be sustained.

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As well as cash it needs people. Doctors, nurses, and other clinicians.

Trouble is, they too are proving hard to find, once again thanks to Johnson’s party, and its attempts to appeal to rightists and racists by stopping freedom of movement from the EU and introducing a hardline immigration policy.

Yesterday I was sent the details of a survey conducted by a consultancy called Prophet, which surveyed 12,200 consumers on 235 brands across 26 industries for its “Brand Relevance Index”.

The NHS topped the poll followed by Spotify, Netflix, PlayStation and Apple. That’s some company it’s in. People regularly tell pollsters they’d pay a bit more tax to make it better, to give it what it needs: cash that the Conservatives have repeatedly denied it.

Far from freeing up funds, the economic damage a no-deal Brexit his party plans to foist upon us may force a rapid reassessment of even the limited help the NHS has been promised.

Perhaps the plan is to save some money by forcing those of us who need medication to jump on planes armed with our credit cards to buy it overseas. It might come to that.

The Conservative Party simply cannot be trusted with the NHS. It has proven it time and again. The story of Whipps Cross only adds to the weight of evidence against it.

So yes, Mr Salem is a Labour activist. But you might not even vote. And you might want to think twice about that, because it might be you in the position that confronted me, and Mr Salem and his daughter, next.

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