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Reader's letter: The NHS is in grave danger

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SIR – On Saturday 17th July I began to run out of air.

Over next hours came a dry throat, coughing spasms and I had a temperature. Double-jabbed, I thought looks like Covid but I can ride it out.

Fast-forward through a difficult night to Sunday early afternoon and all worse, with a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (105F), we called the NHS 111 help line.

After some time and repeating details of symptoms the advice was to drive to the test centre at Romsey. Helpfully they booked a slot at 4pm, which as the time was now 3.40pm and Romsey is a 45-minute drive from my home wasn’t actually helpful.

Reader Rod England says the NHS is "chronically understaffed"
Reader Rod England says the NHS is "chronically understaffed"

We declined that advice and were promised a call back. After two call-backs and some confusion it was agreed to send an ambulance to assess my condition.

Swiftly confirmed as a potential Covid case by the paramedics, I was taken to Bournemouth Royal Hospital. However, on arrival we were turned away as they did not have the capacity to accept another Covid case. There was a wait in the ambulance while calls were made followed by a journey to Poole where there was another delay.

The paramedics, for whom this is a not uncommon situation, were brilliant. At no time in their care did I feel abandoned.

Eight hours after making the 111 call, admitted to the Covid reception area, the pace changed dramatically. An ECG, bloods taken, swiftly fitted with a cannula and a drip. At 2am I was told I was negative for Covid but had a severe infection, a pneumonia that required some days of intravenous antibiotics, and was transferred to a ‘non-Covid’ side room.

My impression is that the NHS 111 advice line has become a similar ‘pinch point’ to the imposed limiting of access to GP services. Triage in these times is understandably essential, but the present system is less than competent and potentially dangerous.

That I am now sitting up able to communicate a week later is down to my wife being repeatedly articulately assertive and the excellent doctors at Poole hospital who hit me with ‘equestrian’ quantities of antibiotics hours before my Covid test was confirmed negative.

I was later told without this timely intervention my outlook might have been grim.

I am now a first-hand witness to the plight of our cheerfully dedicated, very wonderful frontline nursing staff. Chronically understaffed, under-resourced, under-paid and facing another saturation winter, they deserve so much more than tokens and empty words of praise.

Our NHS is in grave danger from cynical neglect.

Rod England,


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