In defence of Ann Clwyd

I note the comments of Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Labour First Minister, in respect of Ann Clwyd. I also note the action of Labour members of the health committee in blocking Ms Clwyd from appearing before them.

I note the actions of Welsh Labour but I do not understand them.

I do not understand the criticisms being levelled at Ms Clwyd for having the courage to speak out about the treatment her husband received, for having the decency to reflect the stories of those who have contacted her, for daring to be on the side of the patient rather than the bureaucracy.

Whilst I understand the need for evidence, I also understand – from experience – that for a relative who has seen a loved one suffer in a hospital, the evidence exists in their eyes, ears, and heart, not in the paperwork of those who have failed the patient.

I know this from the events surrounding the death of my nan. All my family know this. It was twenty years ago but – yes – it colours the way we view things today, for we know what can happen, we know that at the end of the day the only people who will speak for our loved ones are us, and what we have to say is not enough for those who write the reports.

The hospital made a report on what had happened to my nan. Needless to say, everything was fine as far as they could see, for our evidence existed in our eyes, our ears, and in our hearts, most of all in our hearts.

The hospital apologised, not for what had happened but for our “perception” of what had happened.

My nan had fallen out of bed the night before she died, but we were not told. It was a year later, discussing another aspect of her care which had gone wrong, that it was mentioned by a doctor who thought we knew.

We didn’t.

Twenty years ago, but still with us, still in our hearts.

In attacking Ms Clwyd, Carwyn Jones attacked all of us who have experienced failings in care. In citing the primacy of the report, of evidence, we are all dismissed, for none have us can prove what we know, what we have seen, what we have cried over.

I know that the incidents of failings within the health service go far wider than those reported, because people are afraid of being identified, of making a complaint against a hospital and its staff when they, vulnerable, have to rely on that hospital.

I know this because I have failed to complain myself. However intelligent, articulate, analytical I may be, when I experienced poor care while in hospital in 2012 I said nothing. Because I was ill, and vulnerable, and unable to face the stress of speaking out about what was happening.

I feel that stress now, faced with a health service which is failing me, leaving me powerless and helpless and ill.

Speaking out for better standards of care for our people is not to attack the NHS but to seek to ensure that it fulfils its purpose – to serve the interests of the people, of the weak.

I believe in the NHS. I have written letters to thank staff for the care that I have received, the latest in January.

But I also believe that the NHS will not survive if its failings are not addressed. For the NHS must be demonstrably better than the alternatives, must show a different ethos, must embody a set of values built around service to the community rather than profit.

Welsh Labour ought to be on the side of the patient, not the bureaucrat, on the side of the weak, not the powerful, on the side of those in need, not those who neglect and ignore them.

Labour values.

I am shocked at the attacks on Ms Clwyd, for all she has done is to speak, as a Labour politician should, for those who find it difficult for their voices to be heard.

Welsh Labour, in criticising Ms Clwyd, criticises all of us who have spoken out, who have feared speaking out, who are seeking the strength to speak out.

There is a fundamental lack of decency in the attacks on Ms Clwyd. She is a widow, someone who has suffered: she deserves respect whether you agree with her or not.

I found the remarks of the First Minister shocking and shameful.

I have voted Labour all my life. I recall waiting to be old enough to vote, and my excitement at voting for the first time. But I cannot support a Labour Party that has so lost sight of its values that it attacks Ms Clwyd for doing nothing more than espousing Labour values in speaking up for those who have suffered.

I am in a position, right now, where I have been left to be ill, to suffer, by the NHS.

I feel powerless, empty, and lost.

To whom should I turn?

Welsh Labour has turned its back on people like me. On people like my nan, who deserved better. On all of those people who have no-one to speak for them, whose voices will never be heard.

(The above text, edited to reflect the recipient, has been sent to the First Minister, and my local AM.)

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