'I had no time to say goodbye' Widow's anguish over husband's care as NHS marks 75th anniversary

  • Watch ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw's report

A widow from Kent says she had 'no time to say goodbye' to her late husband because of what she describes as a 'breakdown in his NHS care.'

Melonie Pentecost's late husband, Bert, wanted to die at the home in Ashford he had shared with his wife for more than 40 years.

But when the 89-year-old starting having breathing difficulties, he was taken to hospital.

Paramedics told Melonie they had no choice due to the fact the DNR form (do not resuscitate) had not been signed.

"It started with the GP not bothering to come and see him soon enough," Melonie said.

"Once you're over 80, no one seems to care.

  • Melonie Pentecost says she feels the level of GP service has 'changed' over the years

"His breathing was bad and the ambulance came without too much delay and they came and hooked him onto the oxygen and then the senior of the two ambulance men said: 'Where's the form?'

"And I said: 'What form?' So he said: 'The form saying he doesn't want to be resuscitated? We have to take him in to hospital if you haven't signed the form.'

"I had no time to say goodbye to him, they just ripped the oxygen off him, put him onto a chair and bundled him into the ambulance.

"I just felt I'd let him down by letting him go into the hospital."

Melonie says her experience of the NHS is different than years ago when you 'used to get your own GP who knew you by your first name, who knew your family.'

Melonie Pentecost's late husband Bert wanted to die at home in Ashford. Credit: ITV Meridian

Her claims come as the NHS prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary on Wednesday (5 July).

But with record staff vacancies, huge waiting lists and months of industrial action, the celebrations could be overshadowed by the current crisis facing the health service.

Research carried out for ITV Meridian by Creation Healthcare shows that shortages of doctors and nurses are the biggest concern amongst those working in the health service.

We have spoken to health experts, staff and patients about their experiences with the National Health Service.

Tim Gardner, Assistant Director of Policy at The Health Foundation, said: "I think the word crisis is justified.

"We're seeing people really struggling to be able to see their GP, the sort of long waits we see in A&E and for ambulances that we used to see in winter, we're now seeing all year round.

"We've got a record 7.4 million people on the waiting list for planned hospital care."

The disruption to waiting times and lost appointments has been blamed in part to the ongoing strikes which have taken place over the last year.

The NHS strikes is believed to have caused 650,000 NHS appointment and operation cancellations and postponements.

And the wider challenge of getting more people to consider a healthcare career is also proving an issue for hospitals across our region.

  • Alex Entwisle, student nurse and Royal College of Nursing representative

Alex Entwisle, student nurse and Royal College of Nursing representative, said: "I can't remember a day when we actually fully staffed. There are always shortages.

"Hopefully the 75th anniversary will be a time when people will think - maybe I'll come and join it - and work their way up from a healthcare assistant, like I have."

In a statement, Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive said: “GPs and their teams are working incredibly hard to deal with unprecedented demand for appointments.

"But with an ageing population, we know we need to further expand and transform the way we provide care for our local communities and make these services fit for the future.“We are setting out an ambitious package of measures to do just that – with pharmacies playing a central role in managing the nation’s health including providing lifesaving checks and medication for common conditions for the first time.

"This blueprint will help us to free up millions of appointments for those who need them most, as well as supporting staff so that they can do less admin and spend more time with patients.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...