Saturday, 15 February 2014

The NHS in Barnet is in total meltdown - cancer patients sent home on day of life saving operations

NHS bosses discuss Johns treatment with his Dr
Regular readers of this blog will have seen many guest blogs by disabled rights campaigner John Sullivan. John is a passionate advocate of a fair deal for people with learning difficulties. What most of the readers will not know is why John has such an urgent mission and such a great anger. John Sullivan has a large cancerous tumour in his bowel. This was misdiagnosed as IBS for five years allowing it to spread and grow, to such a stage where he is in constant pain. At times the pain is so excruciating that John lies on the floor screaming for hours on end. The tumour causes his bowel and intestines to twist and go into spasm. When this happens, all John can do is lie in agony until the spasm passes. This happens most days. Despite all of this, John is more concerned about the future of his daughter Susan, who is 50 and has Downs Syndrome. Johns only real fear for the future is not for his own suffering, but that if he dies, Susan will be thrown to the wolves. He has dedicated his married life to trying to shield Susan from the world. No conversation with John about his cancer happens without him mentioning the fact that he has no choice but to fight on for Susans sake.

After years of misdiagnosis, last year, doctors finally identified the cause of Johns illness. He had an extensive series of tests and given the worsening prognosis, he was given a treatment plan. This involved monthly injections to shrink the tumour and a date was set for an operation. The surgeon informed John that there were two possible outcomes. If the tumour was not attached to significant organs, it would be removed. If it was, it would be left in, but detatched so that it did not cause the bowel to twist and spasm. This would alleviate the pain. The tumour would then be addressed with chemotherapy. Both options involve major surgery, with risks, but both would offer John a decent quality of life, in the short term at least. There would be no more rolling around screaming on the floor of ASDA when an attack struck. When the medical team became aware of the frequency and acuteness of Johns attacks, he was designated a clinical emergency.

On Wednesday, John was admitted for his operation. He needed to be admitted 24 hours early, as he had to be put on an intravenous drip of medicines designed to subdue the tumour. The doctors were aware that the surgery may cause the tumour to flare up, therefore it needed to be "pacified" (excuse my lack of medical detail, I have not been party to Johns treatment or seen his notes). Once the tumour had been pacified, John was scheduled to be taken for surgery at 11am on Thursday. He was booked into the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead for the operation.

At 10am, I sent John a text wishing him well for the operation and telling him my thoughts and prayers were with him. I sat back and said a quiet prayer for John. I've never discussed religion with him, but if nothing else it made me feel better. At 18:14pm, over seven hours after the scheduled start time for his operation, I received a text from John. It was terse. "They have just cancelled the operation no intensive care beds available". I sent back a text. The next text I received was at 19.05. It simply said "on the tube now".

Eventually I spoke to John. The story he told was heartbreaking and totally disgusting. Basically he'd been kept waiting all day (with a drip in his arm) and at 6pm, the consultant had come down to personally apologise to him. He said "John, I don't know what to say, other than how deeply sorry I am. There are no intensive care beds available in the hospital today. Myself and three other consultants have had to cancel our operations. We can't do them if we don't have a bed".

Which leads me to the question "How can a large hospital in London, treating acute cancer cases, not have enough beds?" Well as far as I am concerned, the answer is obvious. The Government recently shut the A&E department at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield. On Tuesday, I wrote this blog detailing how ambulances were being turned away from Barnet General. These emergency cases were being sent to other hospitals. Where do emergency cases end up? In Intensive Care beds. So the only conclusion that can be drawn is that John Sullivans inhuman treatment by the NHS is the direct result of David Cameron and his government shutting Chase Farm A&E department.

Now I ask everyone to think this through logically. John Sullivan is not special. David Cameron did not ring up the bosses at The Royal Free and say "I don't like John Sullivan, send him home to die". David Cameron and his government have simply said "We won't fund the NHS properly". What this means is that it isn't just John Sullivan. It is everyone in Barnet, perhaps London, perhaps the whole UK, who could find themselves in John Sullivans situation. And if there are no intensive care beds at the Royal Free, if ambulances are being turned away from Barnet General, where will you be taken if you get run over, have a heart attack or any other form of emergency treatment. It is a statement of the bleeding obvious that when you are in need of critical care, the sooner you get to hospital and the sooner you are treated, the higher the chances that you will live. If the ambulance you are in is being turned away from all the hospitals in the locality, what are your chances of survival.

Budget cuts don't discriminate. It doesn't matter whether you are Tory, Labour or Monster Raving looney, if there are no beds, you will die. David Cameron and his government supported by local Tory MP's Theresa Villiers, Matthew Offord and Mike Freer, have allowed this situation to develop. John Sullivan has no date for his rescheduled operation. His consultant could offer no guarantee that when he is asked back, the same thing will not happen. The NHS in Barnet is in Meltdown. I was talking to John yesterday and he made a stark observation "The only successful thing the Tories have launched in the last 20 years was the national lottery. With that you have a 14 million to one chance of winning. It was so successful that they've decided to give you a 14 million to one chance of getting a hospital bed if you have cancer".

There is an even more chilling postscript to this tale. I asked John to write up his experience as a guest blog. He refused. He said "I am going to get pissed, because I have had enough. If it wasn't for Susan I'd have thrown myself under the tube last night when I was kicked out of the hospital". I got a phonecall from John at the pub last night. He'd clearly had a few and he said "listen to this" and passed the phone to one of his friends. The friend told me that he worked at Barnet General hospital and that apparently sixteen nurses had handed their resignation in, as a protest against the conditions under which they were working. Now I have no idea whether this was accurate or true, but I have no reason to doubt the honesty of the Johns friend. It strikes me that the NHS is falling apart.

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale was what John said happened when he arrived home Thursday Evening. His daughter Susan bounded up to him and said "Have they taken the cancer out of your tummy chief, I knew it would be alright"


tw said...

Thanks for telling is as it is, Roger, and thank you John for your courage (yet again) of sharing with us what many people would be reluctant to share. In addition to everything else, your sharing your cancer stories, John and Roger, is helping to dispell the still existing taboo on the subject of the big C, which can be only a good thing for all other cancer sufferers.

Another wise observation of John was that another reason for the overload on intensive care beds is most likely to be the cuts in social care provision to elderly residents, which impact on their health and they ends up in hospital. This could have been easily prevented by reinstating proper social and health care for all.

John Sullivan is a victim of the dismantling of the welfare state and this we cannot afford!

Julian said...

What a terrifying tale!

What a catastrophe we all face! How many of us will lose our lives to make good the banksters'lost profits?

How can we win those much-needed nurses back and save our NHS from big Pharma, mercenary international private equity marauders etc.?

Mrs Angry said...

Just awful: so sorry, John, you and every other patient deserve so much better. You've paid all your working life for the NHS, and now everything you've worked for has been thrown in the lap of the sociopathic politicians and profiteers who are feasting off the marketing of healthcare. But best wishes, and I hope you will have your op rescheduled at once.