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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 21:56 GMT

Ambush upset Blair's day

The Prime Minister was harangued about conditions in the health service by a relative of a cancer patient as he visited a Birmingham hospital.

Sharron Storer, 38, ambushed Tony Blair on the doorstep of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, complaining that there was no bed for her partner, a cancer patient, on the bone marrow unit.

Just hours after the launch of the Labour manifesto she challenged his record on the health service and demanded to know what he intended to do to improve hospitals.

Mr Blair was hardly able to get a word in as Ms Storer seized her opportunity to launch an angry two-minute tirade.

" All you do is walk around and make yourself known but you don't do anything to help anybody "
Sharon Storer

In the past few days Mr Blair has been criticised for not speaking enough to the "ordinary voter" choosing instead audiences that have been handpicked.

Ms Storer's partner Keith Sedgewick, 48, from Hall Green, Birmingham, is being treated at the Hospital for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer.

But he had to spend the night in casualty after no bed could be found for him on the bone marrow transplant unit.

Ms Storey told Mr Blair: "He had a terrible evening. He had a very distressful 24 hours. What are you going to do?"

"He suffered terribly. Would you like to tell me how you are going to provide these people with better facilities?


She feared that her partner was placed at greater risk of infection by being in A and E.

"They are understaffed. They have got terrible facilities. The toilets are appalling."

She argued that the system was failing, not because of the hospital staff but because of Labour policy.

"You are not giving them the money to give them the facilities.

"All you do is walk around and make yourself known but you don't do anything to help anybody."

She refused offers from Mr Blair to join him inside the hospital to discuss the matter further.

Mr Blair said: "We can see there are changes that have been happening. There are more nurses.

Extra investment

Afterwards Mr Blair tried to counter the criticisms by telling waiting journalists outside that extra investment was being put into the health service, including extra nurses, buildings and equipment, but it took time.

"If we don't direct the investment in the health service those cases will carry on.

"It is precisely to change that we are making those changes."

Education Secretary David Blunkett said he was "very sorry" for Ms Storer and her partner.

"There are hundreds of thousands of patients being treated every week in our NHS," Mr Blunkett told Channel 4 News.

"The vast majority of them are very happy with what they get.

"There is still an absolutely enormous challenge in turning round the lack of investment and neglect.

"I am very sorry about Sharron Storer's partner.

"I just wished she'd voted in 97 and I wish she would vote this time."

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