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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 15:10 GMT
Blair hits back in hospital row
Iain Duncan Smith, Rose Addis and Tony Blair
Rose Addis's case has generated a political storm
Prime Minister Tony Blair has hit back at claims that Downing Street breached patient confidentiality in the row over the hospital treatment of a 94-year-old woman.

The accusations were made by the Conservatives, who said the breach happened during briefings to journalists over the care given to Rose Addis.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2's Jimmy Young Show, Mr Blair denied accusations that Number 10 had acted incorrectly.

Rose Addis case
Family claims: Mrs Addis was abandoned in A&E cubicle
Hospital claims: She was quickly treated and put under close observation

Family claims: Mrs Addis was left caked in blood
Hospital claims: Staff tried to change or bathe her

Family claims: Mrs Addis was treated worse than a dog
Hospital claims: She received prompt treatment
Click here for claim and counter claim
"We did not release any information that was not already in the public domain, either through the relatives who have spoken to the media or through the public statements from the hospitals," he said.

He added that the Tories had raised the case, and he had been "perfectly justified" to put the other side of the story.

He also denied that he was being hypocritical by discussing other people's medical details in public while refusing to reveal whether his son Leo had received the controversial MMR vaccination.

He suggested that by going to a newspaper with their complaints, Mrs Addis's family had effectively made public debate about her case acceptable.

The row erupted when Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith criticised the way a north London hospital had treated Mrs Addis.

No regrets

At a stormy Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesday, Mr Duncan Smith quoted the pensioner's family saying she had been treated worse than a dog, prompting Whittington Hospital to demand an apology from the Conservatives.


There are problems facing the NHS, but one of them is not the quality and dedication of its staff

John Edmonds, GMB union
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World At One programme on Thursday the Tory leader said he had no regrets about raising the story in such a high profile way before contacting the hospital to hear their side.

Mrs Addis was admitted to the Accident and Emergency unit on Sunday after injuring her head in a fall at home.

Her relatives say she was left unwashed and caked in blood for three days in casualty - but the hospital insists that she received appropriate treatment.

Racism allegation

Mr Duncan Smith also reacted angrily to suggestions from the hospital that Mrs Addis had refused to be treated by ethnic minority nurses - a claim rejected by her family.


I'll bet there would have been an even bigger outcry if the staff had forcibly washed and dressed Mrs Addis
Janet P, Scotland

"They have had the whole weight of the Labour spin machine and, it appears, the upper echelons of the hospital turned against them...most outrageously accusing this 94-year-old lady of being a racist when she has two ethnic carers that she adores," he told the World at One.

Mrs Addis grandson was also angered by the racism suggestion.

"To imply we could be racist just illustrates the bankruptcy of the hospital's case," he told BBC News.

'Political football'

John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, said his members who worked at the Whittington and throughout the NHS were "sick and tired of being used as a political football by both parties."

"There are problems facing the NHS, but one of them is not the quality and dedication of its staff.

"It is time for the politicians to stop running down public service workers and to start working with them," Mr Edmonds said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Perhaps the conflicting stories are about interpretation as much as fact"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"These individual cases are being used or abused"
Mike Stone, The Patients Association
"This is being used as a political football"
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
"This is not an attack on the staff because they are the victims too"
See also:

23 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Assinder's Question Time verdict
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