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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 22:40 GMT
Leaders clash as Addis row escalates
Iain Duncan Smith, Rose Addis and Tony Blair
Rose Addis's case has generated a political storm
A row over the alleged neglect of 94-year-old NHS patient Rose Addis has degenerated into a bitter personal battle between Tony Blair and Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Duncan Smith has accused the government of "lying" about the case and "smearing" the Addis family by allowing them to be portrayed as racists.

He is standing by the family's claim that the frail pensioner was treated "worse than a dog" by staff at North London's Whittington hospital.

Mr Blair has leapt to the defence of hospital staff and dismissed as "nonsense" suggestions Labour had tried to "smear" the family.

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 appropriate treatment
The Tories claim the Addis case is an illustration of the appalling state of the NHS under Labour.

They also accuse the hospital's medical director, James Malone-Lee, who has led its defence, of being a government "stooge", after it emerged he has been a Labour Party member for 20 years.

'hypocritical'

But speaking on BBC Radio 2's Jimmy Young programme, Mr Blair said: "I am afraid we are not going to have a situation where doctors and nurses are abused in this way without the other side of the story being given."

He also dismissed the charge that Downing Street had breached patient confidentiality by discussing details of Mrs Addis' treatment with reporters.

And he 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.

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

No apology

Her family claim she was left "caked in blood" for three days in casualty because there was not a bed for her on a ward.

Mr Duncan Smith, who is the family's local MP, has refused to apologise for raising the case in the Commons without first contacting the hospital.

He has accused Labour ministers, who branded the family's story "fiction" without speaking to them, of making a calculated effort to discredit them.


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

"If people can't complain...without the bureaucracy of the government dumping down on top of them, smearing them, accusing them of being a racist it's outrageous," Mr Duncan Smith told BBC News.

He added: "These are ordinary people with the whole machinery of government and bureaucracy down on their necks. Someone has to stand up for them and I'm going to do it."

The suggestion of racism was allegedly raised by a doctor at the hospital who, under pressure from reporters, inferred that Mrs Addis may have been unwilling to be treated by ethnic nurses.

In an effort to draw a line under the row, hospital chief executive Trevor Campbell-Davies made it clear to reporters on Thursday that there had been no suggestion of racism in Mrs Addis's behaviour.

The hospital was in "constructive dialogue" with the family over Mrs Addis's future care, Mr Campbell-Davis told BBC News 24.

Milburn visit

And he stressed that there had been no moves on either side towards a formal complaint.

The family just wanted to concentrate on Mrs Addis's future welfare, he said.

Mrs Addis is still being cared for by hospital staff and may be transferred to Homerton Hospital, in Hackney, which is closer to her home.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, has made a "private visit" to Whittington hospital with NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Milburn said it was "fair game" to smear politicians like himself, but not NHS workers who are not "paid a fortune" and "work to make people well not maltreat them."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Martha Kearney
"The war of words is continuing"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"These individual cases are being used or abused"
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
"This is not an attack on the staff because they are the victims too"
Mike Stone, The Patients Association
"This is being used as a political football"
See also:

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