Thursday 28th January 1993 Morning surgery 09:00

My Dad looked put out when Phil Davies and Carol Crosby came in with Mrs Vaughan. Carol Crosby had brought in an extra chair from the waiting room. My Dad glanced at his appointment list. Mrs Vaughan had just booked a single slot at 9 o’clock. He frowned and cleared his throat.
“We’ve come about Mrs Bingham,” said Mrs Crosby.
“Oh, Mrs Bingham!” My Dad sounded relieved. “Listen! I am really sorry to have to tell you this but poor Mrs Bingham passed away in the early hours of this morning.”
“We know that. That’s why we’ve come.” said Mrs Vaughan. “Do you know where she died, Dr Dennis?”
“In the hospital?”
“Well, of course. Do you know where she died in the hospital?”
“I presume it was Ward 7.”
“Ward 5?”
“No. Mrs Bingham died on a trolley in the link corridor. She had been on the trolley since Dr Lewis sent her in on Monday afternoon.”
“It was an old trolley,” said Phil. “The cushions were really worn and hard. There was no pillow.”
“She couldn’t get comfortable.” Mrs Crosby added. “She kept shifting around.”
“There were 8 patients in the link corridor,” said Mrs Vaughan, “including Mrs Bingham. There was another elderly lady, Mrs Ripley, who was vomiting all night. There was a confused man who kept shouting. Another man was very breathless: he was sat up on his trolley, on oxygen.”
“It’s a disgrace!” said Mrs Crosby.
“It’s criminal negligence!” said Phil Davies. “You know, as much I hated my mother, Dr Dennis, I would never have wanted to see her die like Mrs Bingham, to see her go through that.”
“It is clearly inhumane,” said Mrs Vaughan.

“Mrs Bingham was in a lot of pain. When the doctor came to see her, he thought she had an inflamed pancreas: pancreatitis. He took bloods. He said he was coming back but he never did. I don’t imagine he had time. There were patients stacked up everywhere. The nurse came and gave Mrs Bingham a painkilling injection at midnight.”
“It was only because I told her what I thought,” said Phil. “No one would have come otherwise. The nurses were rushing around all over the place.”
“Yes, Mr Davies insisted,” said Mrs Crosby.
“We realised that she was going to die by then,” said Mrs Vaughan. “Her breathing was very shallow and irregular. She was trembling. Her hands were blue and cold. She was hardly responsive.”
“She seemed more comfortable after the injection,” continued Mrs Crosby. “She drifted off to sleep.”
“She stopped breathing at 6 o’clock this morning,” said Phil. “That was it, then. They did not try to resuscitate her.”
“They didn’t know she’d died until you went to tell them, Phil.”
“Another lady on the corridor died at 7 o’clock. She had had a very big stroke. I don’t think they could have done anything for her.”
“Listen,” my Dad said. “I am sorry. These things do happen. At certain times, the hospital can get extremely busy.”
“At certain times! What are you talking about, Dr Dennis?” Phil Davies glared. “There are never any beds. We’ve had enough of it. We want beds.”
“You don’t look ill,” said my Dad.
“Not, now! But, if we need to go to hospital, we all want beds.”
“I can hardly ask them to reserve 3 beds in case you are ill.”
“We are not just talking about us, Dr Dennis. We want beds for every patient.”
“I would really like to help but it is nothing to do with me. You will need to contact the Secretary of State for Health.”
“The Secretary of State for Health!” Phil looked astounded. “Don’t be ridiculous! He won’t take any notice.”
“Well, I can’t help.”
“We are your patients, Dr Dennis. You have a moral responsibility to make sure that there are proper facilities for us when we are ill.”
My Dad took a big breath.
“How often has Mrs Bingham come to see you over the years?”
“I can’t remember.”
“How often?”
“Hardly ever. Maybe, 4 or 5 times apart from when she had the children.”
“Had she ever been to hospital?”
“Never? Are you sure?”
“I am sure. She had never been to hospital.”
“She had worked all her life hadn’t she?”
My Dad nodded.
“So, she’d made her contribution to the National Health Service?”
“Then, the first and only time she need the hospital, they couldn’t look after her. They didn’t have a bed. She died on an old trolley in a dark corridor. Is that acceptable?”
My Dad did not know what to say.

“We want beds . . . beds for every patient!”
“We want beds . . . beds for every patient!”
“We want beds . . . beds for every patient!”

We want beds . . . beds for every patient!