We often look at government apathy towards us in abstract terms, it’s very hard for us to truly quantify things unless we can make them somehow personal. Look at the holocaust, 6 million people is a mind boggling number but distil that down to the story of Anne Frank and you put a face on things. I’m not comparing what I’m about to write to the holocaust, not even slightly, but you get the picture. Let me tell you a story.
Let’s say there was an old lady in a care home, let’s call her Annie. Her daughter and son-in-law had cared for her in her own home for nearly two years as dementia got its foul hooks into her but after a fall the social services refused to allow her to return to her own house. Her daughter was devastated feeling as if she had failed her mother. Let her down. Abandoned her.
The staff in the care home soon showed that Annie hadn’t been abandoned. They were amazing, compassionate, and over time Annie was clearly in a good place. Yes, she was forgetful, occasionally angry and confused, but she remembered her daughter, son in law, and grandson. She was doing okay.
In Nov 2018 the son in law received a call. Annie wasn’t well. He went to the home some time after midnight to find Annie in a very confused state. Agitated, refusing medication, and clearly unwell. An ambulance finally came out and Annie was taken to hospital. She had a lower respiratory infection, she was kept in hospital for around 8 hours, given antibiotics and fluid, then returned to the care home able – once more – to accept further medication.
Fast forward to April 2020. Covid 19 is ravaging the country though not to the extent in terms of numbers we had perhaps feared. The NHS was coping, it wasn’t ideal. How could it be after years of austerity and poor management? But it was coping. The daughter received a call, Annie wasn’t well.
She had a temperature and was out of breath. They called 111 (on several occasions it later turned out) as her symptoms and condition were identical to those of 2018. It was feared she had developed pneumonia again. Not a laughing matter at 83 but her physical health wasn’t terrible. 111 informed the care home that no ambulance would be sent. The care home then contacted Annie’s GP. They knew these conditions could go downhill fast. The GP refused to attend.
He had decided it was “suspected Covid 19” though the care home didn’t have any other cases even suspected. He wouldn’t attend. He prescribed paracetamol and then if that didn’t work he would arrange an end of life package. The other daughters (who are a story for another day) seemed to accept this. The daughter who cared for her was less sure, the son in law certainly so.
How could someone, without even cursory examination, with a past history of lower respiratory infections be written off in this way? How do you simply go from over the counter pain killers to end of life packages? The doctor assured the daughter he was acting in accordance with government guidelines. He decided in the second week to add antibiotics. The problem was Annie was in a state by this time and wouldn’t take medication. She was ill and confused. If you’ve seen an elderly person with even a mild water infection you’ll know the mental effects that can have.
Nobody would attend.
The son in law spoke to the doctor and got the same response. He then contacted Annie’s MP to inform her that one of her constituents was being left to die “because Covid 19”. The hospitals weren’t bursting and while he knew there was a chance she could get ill in hospital he knew there was no chance at all for her left in her current state. Surely doctors would have to try? The local MP was too buys, she had been ill herself and was made the deputy leader of the opposition. She was tweeting about Zoom meetings and congratulating other shadow cabinet members. She was far too busy to focus on one life. What’s one life? Her staff member was very nice but beyond a statement from PHE stating nobody was refused hospital treatment nothing was done.
Her son in law contacted the MP where the GP was located. Same story, no personal response, just a staff member stating much the same thing.
The mayor of Greater Manchester was then contacted. He did respond personally, he did get in touch out of hours, he did get a statement from the NHS but, nothing changed. Whoever he spoke to didn’t take any action or change anything. Eventually his responses stopped which is kind of okay because by that point Annie had died. There was nothing more to be done.
It seems though nobody would attend to examine or treat her or take her into a hospital a district nurse could come round to administer powerful painkillers to ensure she was “comfortable” while her body was starved of nourishment or fluids and the lower respiratory infection did its work. Oh yes, someone can come out to do that. A small mercy, but could it have been avoided?
Yes, Annie was my mother in law and do you know what I genuinely loved that lady. She was tough as nails, could swear like a trooper, and – when younger – could drink me under the table. She deserved better. She deserved better from the NHS, from her GP, from the politicians, and from most of her family. She deserved some help and a chance. She didn’t get one.
I realise you might think “well, that’s a terrible story but these things can happen. People can slip through the cracks” and you’d be right. But is it an isolated story? Not from the contacts I’ve received. Not from the words of the doctors and 111. We may never know the true cost of abandoning people to die “because Covid 19”. I don’t have the reach to make more noise and the press (apart from the Mirror) didn’t care. Nobody cares because they’re all numbers. But Annie wasn’t a number, and neither is anyone else.
But remember, the government will stop at nothing to protect us. Well, protect their position at any rate. They do not care about us, they never have, but we’ve only really thought of that in abstract terms. Put a face on it, imagine if it was your mum, dad, brother, sister, grandma or grandpa. Anyone.
Look after each other, folks. Regardless of anything all we have is each other.