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2002: Elderly patient sparks Commons row

A 94-year old woman has found herself at the centre of a bitter political row between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition.

The family of Rose Addis claim she was left unwashed and untreated in Accident and Emergency at the Whittington Hospital in north London for nearly three days after falling down the stairs at her home.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith raised her plight during Prime Minister's Questions. He said the case had been brought to his attention by the patient's daughter, Zena Gold, who lives in his Chingford constituency.

Tony Blair accused the Tory leader of failing to check his facts and using an individual case to run down the health service.


"I feel a deep sense of rage and anger "

Professor James Malone-Lee

The hospital says Mrs Addis was under observation for a head wound. It also claims she refused staff offers of help to get changed and insisted on waiting until her daughter arrived. MPs were told Mrs Gold went to visit her mother two days after the accident and found her still wearing clothes caked in blood.

She borrowed a bowl of water to wash her mother's hands - and said she had to throw away a pair of socks soaked in blood.

This evening, Professor James Malone-Lee, the doctor at the centre of the case, was interviewed on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

He said: "She had a particular reservation about some of the nurses who were on duty ... It's an area of health care that is often a problem to us, it causes a great degree of distress to staff, it's a sensitive matter."

He would not comment any further when asked if Mrs Addis refused help because there were no white nurses on duty.

In Context
The case of Rose Addis dominated news headlines for several days.

Labour accused the Tories of exploiting confidential information to make political capital. The government, in turn, was accused of trying to portray the family as racists.

Mr Blair told the Sunday People later that week he would stake his political reputation on the future of the health service. He promised to fix the NHS by the next election or be held to account by voters.

Mr Duncan Smith - in a speech in May 2002 - said the furore surrounding Rose Addis highlighted how centralised British politics had become.

The chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Ian Bogle, accused MPs of playing politics with peoples' lives in his speech to the annual conference in July 2002.

He called for a political consensus to improve the health service.


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