he mother of a three-year-old girl suffering from cystic fibrosis rebuked Steve Barclay over NHS staff working conditions as he visited a London hospital.
The Health Secretary was confronted by Sarah Pinnington-Auld when he met her and her daughter Lucy during a visit to King’s College University Hospital in Denmark Hill on Monday.
During a conversation beside Lucy’s hospital bed, Ms Pinnington-Auld, a teacher from Bridge, Kent, could be heard telling Mr Barclay that staff are “absolutely amazing” but pressures on the NHS are affecting the care for her daughter, whose recent bronchoscopy had to be delayed due to a lack of beds.
“The damage that you’re doing to families like myself is terrible,” she said, adding that the recent disruption to her daughter’s treatment was “agony”.
“The doctors, the nurses, everyone on the ward is just brilliant considering what they’re under, considering the shortage of staff, considering the lack of resources,” she added.
“And I think, for me, that’s what’s really upsetting actually, because we have a daughter with a life-limiting, life-shortening condition and we have some brilliant experts and they’re being worked to the bone, and actually the level of care they provide is amazing, but they not being able to provide it in the way they want to provide it because the resourcing is not there.”
The 43-year-old told Mr Barclay that the UK is “so lucky” to have the NHS as she expressed concerns about its privatisation.
“I’m so scared about my daughter’s future, thinking about what you guys might do to the NHS and what that means in exact terms for the length of her life, because if you don’t prioritise the NHS, I don’t know what chance she has for a longer life,” she said.
Speaking to the PA news agency about the conversation afterwards, she said: “I wanted to make it clear that the NHS staff are absolutely amazing.
“They’re so hard-working and incredible and are doing an absolutely brilliant job under such intense pressures like underfunding and understaffing.
“We just want to hug every member of staff. They are working so hard. It’s so tough for them.”
We are human beings. My daughter is one of those statistics whose life depends on the NHS. It’s hard to put into words. It is emotionally exhausting for all of us
Ms Pinnington-Auld went on to describe how her daughter’s recent bronchoscopy – a procedure to check the lungs in order to identify treatment needed to prevent long-term damage – was pushed back by five days.
“We were all packed up and ready to go to the hospital when we got a phone call last minute to say no beds were available,” she said.
Staff did manage to get Lucy into the hospital four days later but her procedure was “bumped off the list” due to the number of emergencies coming through the door that day, so they had to wait another day for the procedure to take place, Ms Pinnington-Auld explained.
“The problem is the lack of beds,” she said. “We’re fire-fighting at the moment, the staff are fire-fighting.
“We are dealing with other walks through the door and these obviously have to be prioritised so other care that isn’t acute are getting moved down the list.”
On how the problems have affected the family, she said: “We are human beings. My daughter is one of those statistics whose life depends on the NHS.
“It’s hard to put into words. It is emotionally exhausting for all of us.”
Ms Pinnington-Auld said she does not trust the current Government to resolve the problems.
“It’s frustrating listening to the Conservative Government blame the problems on the pandemic,” she said.
“The lack of beds, lack of funding, lack of staff was all there before the pandemic,” she said, adding that it is “wrong” and “misleading” of the Government to do so.
“Since the Conservatives came into power in 2010, it has been a problem that has slowly been getting worse and it’s now at breaking point.
“We are just throwing (the NHS) away now. My only hope is that this Government is gone and there is something left for a new party to rebuild with.
“It’s not because of my political views. This is just coming from the heart of a mother seeing the NHS under strain and the impact that can have on my daughter and the lives of others.”
The mother-of-two said Mr Barclay responded to her concerns by saying the Government is investing more money into the health service.
The health secretary can be heard in the footage telling Ms Pinnington-Auld that the government have invested more money to tackle issues like staff and bed shortages.
Downing Street said that the public should be “reassured” that the Government will fund the NHS to tackle backlogs.
Asked about the comments by Ms Pinnington-Auld, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Government has recognised that the backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic are unacceptable. It is why we have invested such a huge amount of money to start bringing them down, with early signs of success by eliminating two-year waits and we’re now pushing on, focusing on 18-month waits.
“Whilst this happens, we know the public will be concerned. But they should be reassured that the Government will continue to give the NHS the funding it needs to deal with these Covid backlogs and put the NHS back on track.”
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