(This letter – or an edited version thereof – will also be sent to Theresa May. Apologies for the break in the theme of the Belle and Sebastian titled blog posts. This was written on the 26th September)
Dear Prime Minister,
I was diagnosed with a brain tumour this summer, while on holiday in Italy. I had surgery at Brescia hospital to remove the hydrocephalus that had built up and was causing near-constant joint pain, as well as vomiting, fainting and not beig able to eat. On return to the UK, I had further surgery to debulk the tumour and am due to start radiotherapy and chemotherapy on the 2nd October.
I am writing to you for two reasons. The first of these is that I was on holiday in Sirmione when I was taken to hospital. A very short distance away, you were singing the National Anthem in your hotel. As you were doubtless enjoying a holiday in what is a beautiful part of the world and in what I am assured is a lovely country, I was having major surgery. Fortunately, thanks to the fact that until Brexit comes to fruition we are still members of the European Union, I was able to access the reciprocal healthcare and my stay in Italy was (albeit prolonged) less stressful than it might have been under a Conservative government outside the EU, particularly under plans for a ‘hard Brexit’ and the meaningless talk of no deal being better than a bad deal. Being abroad for this was very difficult, in part due to uncontrollable factors and the language barrier, but it gave me even more appreciation for both the European Union and the NHS – both institutions that your government has shown contempt for.
The second reason I am writing is to highlight from my personal experience that the NHS is an institution we should take pride in, but that it is one being underfunded and systematically destroyed by Conservative policy. I have had two stays in hospital since returning to the UK and while the medical staff who cared for me were wonderful and I cannot speak highly enough about them, the overstretched nature of the departments was clear. My diagnosis took much longer than it could have done which, while partly attributable to the causes of my symptoms initially being missed when I first visited the hospital back in May, is in part down to lack of funding to do proper tests and investigations. Although much of this happened in Glasgow and as health is a devolved matter, and so mostly in the hands of the SNP administration, I am now based in Tamworth and being treated in Birmingham. I cannot speak highly enough of the care I have received, but this has not been under easy circumstances and has been made much harder by the austerity pursued by yours and previous governments.
I am not expecting much to come of this letter, least of all a pro-Europe or pro-NHS message to come from your party. These are merely things I wanted to highlight – it certainly often feels, and I believe it is true, that politicians can forget that their decisions have a real human impact and that real people care about and have experience of these issues. It becomes easy to ignore people or to treat them as an intellectual playground. Other people will have other stories to tell – and while the line of many politicians’ about meeting a person on the doorstep who just happened to confirm their prejudices is a tired one, there is a great value in listening to these stories and what people have to say.