It is heartbreaking when the NHS fails the people it’s dedicated to help.
When my father Bob Skinner was brought home by air ambulance from Spain on 2 July, I was mightily relieved. It had been a huge battle getting him home after an accident on holiday, and it wouldn’t have happened without the valiant support of Dad’s MP, Stephen Doughty and his team. Yet his ordeal was only just beginning.
Dad is still in hospital five months later. He has also been unable to eat properly for those five endless months, because the Cardiff & Vale university health board lost his dentures when transferring him between hospitals at the start of July. Shamefully, Cardiff & Vale has totally failed to take any responsibility for putting right the loss and getting Bob a replacement set of teeth. I made a formal complaint to Cardiff & Vale in September. Three months on – a quarter of a year on – we have had a string of broken promises to sort things out. I have twice asked Bob’s member of the Senedd, the economy minister Vaughan Gething, to help. Vaughan’s team contacted the ‘concerns’ team at Cardiff & Vale, but got nowhere. I feel so bad at failing to get the NHS to help Dad. But if Vaughan Gething, the Welsh government’s health minister through the worst days of the pandemic, can’t do anything, what hope do I have? Do I have to write to @PrifWeinidog (first minister) Mark Drakeford?
I say this to Suzanne Rankin, chief executive of Cardiff & Vale university health board. How would you feel if it was your father who was being neglected so badly? Can you imagine what it’s like for a 96 year old type 2 diabetic, constantly fobbed off and living off lukewarm soup and ice cream? Please, take responsibility and end the neglect. As a veteran who served in the army during the second world war, Bob deserves so much better. No one denies that the NHS is under huge strain, but Bob is just the latest example of how the service all too often lets down the most vulnerable and has to be chased repeatedly when things go wrong.
It’s heartbreaking seeing Dad in such a plight. He has an unquenchable spirit, although the past five months have tested his resolve to the limit. Back in the early days of the pandemic, he repeatedly went on national television to praise his care home workers. Our first lockdown reunion appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. And he survived Covid and a fall in his former care home – all experiences that he reported in a pandemic blog which we later turned into an e-book, which featured on BBC Wales Today.
I just hope that Dad’s Llandough ordeal will have a similar happy ending.
PS: I should point out that the medical staff at Llandough have been kind and caring, especially Hannah, Manuel, Siân and Andrea – and there will have been others whose names I do not know. And a decade ago I praised Cardiff & Vale for its amazing work getting staff to its hospitals in a blizzard, enabling my late mother’s cancer operation to go ahead.
PPS: I was grateful to receive a call this morning from a director responsible for dentistry at the Cardiff & Vale university health board. My father’s case now appears to be a priority, which is good news. Thank you, Bev.
It’s only fair to update this post with praise for Cardiff & Vale university health board’s response to my cry for action. Roz and Bev sprang into action and Bob got his replacement teeth soon after the new year. On a video call just before Christmas, the team explained how they intended to apply the lessons from Bob’s experience, in particular to check that a patient does not leave hospital without their dentures.
Bob has made amazing progress in January, and is now blogging again! You can follow his progress here.
Sadly, Bob died on Tuesday 21 February in Llandough hospital. As mentioned above, January was a far happier month for him, as he was able to eat properly for the first time since early July. He was due to return home the day after he died, and we were full of admiration for the care and kindness of Cardiff & Vale university health board staff making the necessary in-home care arrangements, especially Tendai and Therese.
I have blogged about my wonderful father here.