The dying Suffolk councillor who has seen the best and the worst of the NHS

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell

Councillor Caroline Page has seen the best and the worst of the NHS.

Last year she was told that her fatigue and breathlessness, which had been treated as Long Covid, was actually the most severe case of lung cancer her oncologist had ever seen.

For many months the 65-year-old, from Woodbridge in Suffolk, had struggled to get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor.

When she was eventually diagnosed, she spoke of her heartbreak and fear at how many other patients may suffer the same fate in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

But, while she has been critical of systemic healthcare problems and the government who she says have been "rotten custodians" of the NHS, she has nothing but praise for the frontline staff who have cared for her with skill and compassion in recent months.

The mum-of-three, who is married to Mayor of Woodbridge Patrick Gillard, has been told she probably has days to live.

But such is her determination to champion the NHS on its 75th anniversary that, from her bed in Ipswich Hospital, she shared some final thoughts on those who have cared for her.

"The NHS is a wonderful institution and the staff here in Ipswich have given me excellent care with skill, patience, humanity and friendly respect," she said. "I cannot speak highly enough of them.

County Councillor Caroline Page continued to do some work on local issues from her hospital bed. Credit: Facebook: Save the Deben

"But Patrick and I are both old enough to have parents born pre-NHS, when fear of serious illness was deep and distressing – not knowing if you could afford to save your child, spouse or parent’s life, because you could not afford it.

"What we have in the NHS is the biggest and best insurance scheme you could have. We are all in it by paying our taxes but, when we need it, it is free.

"But we believe it is not in the right hands. The government and ministers who are the current custodians of our NHS are not as invested in it as we are.

"They can use private A&E at private hospitals and they are not ‘in the same boat’ as the rest of us."

Mrs Page, a Lib Dem county councillor, has continued to represent her community throughout her illness.

Caroline Page and her husband Patrick at Lands End after a marathon cycle ride. Credit: Caroline Page

She said: "To care for the NHS as well as it cares for us, you really need to believe in it and provide the funding that it needs.

"I am not convinced the current custodians do. Let us all make sure that the NHS is supported to be even better when it reaches its 100th birthday."

Health Secretary Steve Barclay told ITV News the NHS is a "safety net" and is "very confident" it will continue to exist without privatisation over the next 25 years.

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