NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Poster Patient" for the Ills of British Health Care

January 28, 2002

Some British newspapers print no end of horror stories illustrating the plight of those caught up in that country's socialized medical system. But the treatment of one patient in particular has caught the attention of Fleet Street and the public.

  • She is 94-year-old Rose Addis, whose case reached the level of Parliamentary debate.
  • After falling and sustaining a nasty wound on her forehead, she was taken to the emergency ward of Whittington Hospital in north London -- with blood reportedly gushing from her cut.
  • Addis's daughter found her 48 hours later in a chair in her emergency room cubicle -- confused, unwashed and still wearing the clothes she had arrived in, now caked with dried blood.
  • The daughter was quoted as saying, "If my mother had been a dog, she would have been treated better."

Given the uproar the Addis case generated, two other Whittington patients came forward to relate similar mistreatments. One was a 13-year-old boy whose parents claim he had to wait eight and a half hours to see an emergency room doctor -- even though he had a raging fever and a rash, possible symptoms of meningitis. The other case involved an 88-year-old man whose niece said she found him covered in vomit and excrement after a five-day hospital stay.

The hospital has tried to defend itself by calling the families' accounts "fiction." But those who have been treated by Britain's National Health Service profess to be all too well acquainted with long, doctorless waits in squalid NHS emergency rooms.

Source: Sarah Lyall, "94-Year-Old Becomes Case Study in British Health Care Woes," New York Times, January 26, 2002.


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