Government lacks humanity, says Bath MP

Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse, has put the case of a constituent who had sadly passed away after waiting nearly 2 hours for an ambulance to the Health Minister, Steve Barclay, following a statement concerning the winter pressures on the NHS.

Shockingly, says Ms Hobhouse, Mr Barclay did not even address the tragic death of her constituent or offer condolences to the family. Instead he chose to talk about excess mortality from A&E delays being a global phenomenon. He cautioned that the Bath MP should be careful about bandying around figures that made it seem like an issue in the UK alone. 

In addition to raising the awful case of her constituent, Wera Hobhouse MP spoke of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s revelations that up to 500 people a week are needlessly dying due to A&E delays. Mrs Hobhouse has suggested that part of the way to fix this is for the Government to get behind Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP’s Ambulance Waiting Times Bill. The Bill would identify ‘hot spots’ with the longest ambulance waiting times and get help to those struggling the most.

A Freedom of Information Request late last year by the Liberal Democrats revealed that patients whose lives are in immediate danger are waiting on average for almost 11 minutes, nearly 60% longer than the Government’s Category 1 target of 7 minutes, and over 3 times as long as the Category 2 target of 18 minutes in the South West.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, commented:

“My constituent’s case is a tragic one but I fear a familiar story for many others across the country. After one of my constituents fell seriously ill and his wife rang 999, the emergency was classed as a Category 2, then escalated to a Category 1, yet it took almost 2 hours for an ambulance to arrive. Despite the paramedics’ heroic efforts, within an hour my constituent sadly died. 

“After hearing this horrific story, which I outlined clearly to the Health Minister, I find it unbelievable that he would refuse to even acknowledge the sad passing of my constituent. The lack of humanity that the Government has shown to patients and NHS staff has never been more clear.

“It is chilling that the Health Minister appears to feel no responsibility or accountability for the ongoing NHS crisis, instead blaming other factors for excess deaths. Families up and down the country are losing loved ones. These are happening on his watch. It has been clear for some time that accepting accountability is alien to this Conservative Government. Instead of demonstrating compassion, they are displaying contempt. 

“This winter we are seeing that the compassionate conservatism heralded by this Government is nothing but hollow words used to justify the shameful lack of support provided to our public services. 

“If the Government was serious about addressing these never-ending crises, they would get behind Daisy Cooper’s Ambulance Waiting Times Bill so the areas struggling the most get the support they need immediately.”

Here’s a copy of that exchange:

Wera Hobhouse MP and the Secretary of State for Health’s exchange in the Chamber:

Wera Hobhouse:

When a constituent of mine fell seriously ill recently, his wife rang 999. It was a category 2 emergency that then escalated to category 1, but it still took the ambulance nearly two hours to arrive and, despite the paramedics’ heroic efforts, my constituent sadly died. There are now up to 500 avoidable deaths per week because of A&E delays, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Will the Government support the Ambulance Waiting Times (Local Reporting) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper), to identify hotspots with the largest waiting times and put support to where it is most needed?

Steve Barclay:

I have seen a lot of speculation in the media about the excess mortality to which the hon. Lady refers. I have discussed the issue in detail with both the chief medical officer and the medical director for NHS England. The point to note is, first, that this is something that has happened internationally. It cannot be ascribed just to one issue, as is so often the case. Some of the excess mortality will be due directly to COVID, albeit that that will be a diminishing proportion, and some of the non-COVID excess mortality will also be driven by quite a wide combination of factors, so we have to be cautious when those sorts of numbers are bandied around.