'Shock cancer operation saved me… thanks to our world-class NHS'

At the end of the most surreal of years I found myself in the most unexpected of situations.

Being wheeled towards an operating theatre in a hospital that was under siege from Covid, to have a cancer removed which, three weeks before, I didn’t know I had.

A team of anaesthetists put me under, then a team of surgeons spent three hours removing my cancerous prostate and I came round in a recovery room where a sister was holding my hand.

I moved to a ward in a Covid-free bubble, where nurses set me up in a bed with a catheter and a drip and monitored me through the night until the day shift came in and began to get me mobile.

The cleaners and staff who brought meals in full PPE went out of their way to raise my spirits despite being paid the minimum wage to work on the frontline of a war against a disease whose death toll still mounts.

I asked a nurse how she’s coped coming in for nine months to a place where hundreds of people are dying, including her own colleagues, from something she might easily contract, knowing fellow staff are going through hell in intensive care wards. And she just smiled, said “it’s what we do”, and asked if I needed more painkillers.

Throughout that hospital stay, almost three weeks ago, I was thinking this world-class treatment should not be happening to me. Not in Britain where we’re told scarce hospital beds are needed to fight Covid. Not in Liverpool, which only recently had one of the highest infection rates in Europe.

Not in the dilapidated Royal Hospital which should have been rebuilt three years ago, only for those shameless ­profiteering pirates Carillion to go bankrupt. But it did happen. Because it’s what the NHS does.

It’s what they did a few weeks before my operation in the city’s Broadgreen Hospital when a scan and biopsy detected cancer and they booked me swiftly in for surgery. That team’s support has been exceptional and they will see me again in six weeks to find out if I’m tumour-free. In the meantime, there’s a direct line to them, to answer any questions or fears.

And here’s what I learned. All men over 40 should get ­themselves tested for prostate cancer because if it’s caught early your chances are very good.

Anti-maskers and Covid conspiracy theorists need to visit their nearest hospital and see the worry and fatigue etched in every staff member’s face.

The Tories must be stopped doing to our NHS what they did with health systems during this pandemic – flog it to their corporate chums. Because despite the battering it has taken this past decade, leaving it with fewer hospital beds than almost every other European country, it is still our most precious possession.

We on the Left often get accused of fetishising the NHS and I admit it’s far from perfect. But whenever myself, or my family, have been in need, it’s been there to provide a professional and a personal service that’s untouchable.

It’s not the monarchy, the Empire, the pomp and circumstance or the flag this country should be most proud of. It’s the NHS.

Britain’s greatest asset and Labour’s proudest achievement.

Never forget that.


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