A doctor writes on Sarah Vine’s decision to take Michael Gove to the wrong NHS facility

Michael Gove leaves hospital on crutches after his wife drove him to the wrong NHS facility.

Michael Gove leaves hospital on crutches after his wife drove him to the wrong NHS facility.

Please enjoy this letter, posted by “emigrated consultant” Tony Cartwright on Facebook.

Ms Vine

I am another UK doctor who is writing a letter to government, if only to satisfy my own anger and frustration. You must all be getting quite tired of this, really.

Ms Vine, you took your husband to a 17 bed community hospital out of hours… and you really expected the full flow of a trauma centre ? This is an unrealistic expectation and will never be the case. We could staff Shepton Mallet Community Hospital with a 24/7 radiology department for the use of ‘people like us,’ as you describe yourself and as you suggest at the end of your missive, however I suspect your husband’s friend, Jeremy, and indeed the PM himself may have something to say about that and the funding and staffing involved. And then what…orthopaedics too and a bit of general surgery…all squeezed into a 17 bed community hospital with no operating theatre. What about the follow up – the nurses / receptionist / plastering tech / porters / radiographers. Really ? And the cost ??

Your nearest emergency department is either in Yeovil or Bath, both a fairly tiresome 40-60 minute drive, and had you gone to either of these hospitals you would have had an X-ray at any time of the day or night and been referred immediately to orthopaedics if required, oh, and been reviewed by a Consultant, for urgent treatment if required and/or some conservative (that word is beginning to stick in my throat) management with advice. That would have resolved your issue later on the Sunday, however I suspect you had many more important things to do than ensure the comfort and health of your husband.

It was your and/or your husband’s choice, for whatever reason, to not take your husband to a doctor in an emergency department in a timely fashion following his injury and, instead, to take him to a unit that was never designed to be equipped to deal with a major fracture (toe, was it ?) out of hours. You see, with repeated changes to funding and allocation of resources within the NHS, the local A&E departments that I remember as a child have been wound down and closed. You and your husband have the freedom to be able to choose to live in a beautiful leafy part of Somerset far from the madding crowds and you therefore have to make a little effort to access those services that larger hospitals provide 24/7/365, and you decided not to make that effort. Surely you could have used a little of your husband’s 10% pay rise to cover the cost of a little petrol/diesel and some hospital parking to get either to Bath or Yeovil, both centres of NHS excellence ? Your decision not to is not our fault. Do not blame us for your lack of effort or forward thinking.

To then level your inappropriate decision making at the NHS doctors and nurses, and gloss this with a fairly healthy dose of ignorance about healthcare provision in the NHS, is absolutely disgraceful, insulting, and only proves further how ignorant politicians, and now apparently, also their wives, are. The comment ‘….he doesn’t have a spare half-day to sit around awaiting the pleasure of the hospital radiographer…’ only further demonstrates the absolute contempt in which politicians hold doctors, nurses and other allied medical professionals. Your attitude is disgraceful.

Yes, I am a UK trained Consultant. However I saw what the likes of Jeremy Hunt and yourself are doing to the NHS through the media and government and I emigrated, like many others have done and are increasingly doing so. This does not, however, attenuate my upset when I see people such as yourself, who are clearly professionally ignorant of Healthcare provision in the UK, being so openly vitriolic towards the phenomenal institution of the NHS and my UK colleagues, who are highly trained, skilled, utterly professional and respected the world over, except, apparently, in the UK. You should respect them and everything they do and not hammer them for what they don’t do, largely due to direction from above, over which they have absolutely no control. The NHS is respected and revered the world over. It is the envy of almost every country in the world and you openly lambast it in your paper ? Just think about that for a moment.

Your expectations of the current NHS are completely unrealistic and your demand for every community hospital and treatment centre to have 24/7 care displays a level of ignorance regarding healthcare provision and financing which, considering you announced this in a national paper, is quite simply astounding. This triad is complete with your vitriol and implied criticism of my highly trained, skilled and professional colleagues which is utterly disgusting.

Yet again, the government is serving its own end and ignoring the populace and the entire Healthcare sector.

This is all a bit of an own goal, really.


Tony Cartwright

Emigrated Consultant

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  1. Jim Round July 28, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Class, absolute class.

  2. isobel. July 28, 2015 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    toally agree… Somerset has a very poor a & e service the whole county has only 2 hospitals which have a full running A&E service, those being Taunton and Yeovil… whilst the Community Hospital is run by Care UK… Shepton Mallet is all but closed a weekend apart from the minor injuries unit still run by NHS somerset trust, like the rest of the community hospitals across our county.. Our local one, which provides medical minor injuries for a vast area of over 600 squ milies… living in this area, 28 miles from an A & E department which entails a long ride down winding roads which were built for horse and carts.. do not have a heart attack or stroke if you live any distance from an emergency hospital in this county… Minor Injuries Units do not have resident doctors and are run solely by a Nurse Practitioner…. Rural areas are not a priority when it comes to medical services quiet the opposite.. shame Mr Gove had to suffer what thousands of people have to put up with because of cuts inflicted by the Government even worse his wife has the audacity to complain… we have to live with it.

  3. Marie Meaden July 28, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Oh dear! didn t the precious pair understand? oh dear imagine having to wait i A and E, they are not the Hoi Paloi! they are the privileged elite!!

  4. James Drummond July 28, 2015 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    “People like us” yes a phrase that sends chills through my entire body. Those sort have little idea how their apparent God given status compares only to self serving people who take their wages for nothing. They are not fit to hold public office of any sort. If I were one of them I would choose a more careful rhetoric. The 300 won’t be there when the cracks become fissures and spill out the antagonism felt here in the reality zone. You lot are puppets controlled by 300 puppet masters. Just hope you aren’t found suspended from a high publicly known structure by some misguided vigalante group. Oh yes not long now.

    • Mike Sivier July 28, 2015 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      Who’s “you lot”?

    • Pod July 31, 2015 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      My Drummond, the Labour Party is run by millionaires residing in London and no idea of the real world. The real world means those who provide the wealth (private sector in case you don’t get it) and have paid to this bloated and over managed public gravy boat for decades but get bugger all back. Then we are told, “ah you have saved through your life so you can cough up but those poor desperate illegal immigrants must take preference”/ Tell you what take your pathetic socialist garbage out into nothern towns and cities and see who listens to you? The deaf probably.

      • Mike Sivier July 31, 2015 at 11:41 pm - Reply

        Do you expect anybody to take you seriously after that display of concentrated bigotry?

  5. Stephen Bee July 28, 2015 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Some times tough love can be an eye-opener Mr & Mrs Gove..Maybe now you understand what us mere mortals have to face 24/7..maybe you’ll relate your hopefully enlightened vision over the Brandy and Cigars next time you dine with Jeremy.

  6. Jeffery Davies July 29, 2015 at 4:52 am - Reply


    yet another doctor speaks out about the nhs
    when do the ninty nine percent who aint rich wake up to the fact they selling it off to the likes of crapita serco maximus salus atos yes its nearly there the final nail

    • c.hodson July 30, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      well said. If the NHS the hours your correspondent works perhaps those working in the said underfunded NHS should get the same amount PER HOUR that he does.

    • Alex Clarke July 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      Dr. Tony Cartwright is a Consultant Anesthesiologistin at a private hospital in Abu Dahbi.

      • Anne Wright July 31, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply

        He said he had emigrated because of the way the NHS was being steered. It doesn’t mean he has no contacts in the NHS–nor that he doesn’t understand it–and means he feels free to talk as he has!

  7. M de Mowbray July 29, 2015 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Excellent letter !

  8. Mr.Angry July 29, 2015 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Love it, truth spoken just highlights the failures of this corrupt government which only a handful of the wealthy voted in.

    • Pod July 31, 2015 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      OK braindead, we are in a court of law so give the evidence o a “corrupt government” and the “only a handful of the wealthy” you seem so certain voted them in? Then perhaps tell me if you put into the pot or, like most lefty ones, you take out from it?

      • Mike Sivier July 31, 2015 at 11:39 pm - Reply

        We aren’t in a court of law; people who hurl abuse at other people on this blog get banned; there is plenty of evidence of government corruption in this blog’s previous articles alone – you’d have to be extremely blinkered to miss it in the news over the last five years and three months; oh, and if you’re keen on evidence, please produce some to support your claim that left-wingers take more out of the “pot” (I take it this is the benefit system?) than they contribute.

  9. NMac July 29, 2015 at 6:45 am - Reply

    I suspect that Vine and Gove deliberately drove to the wrong facility in order, so they thought, to collect ammunition to bash the NHS. If that was the case its nice to see it well and truly backfired on them. I hope the very unpleasant pair read Dr Cartwright’s letter.

    • Joan Edington July 29, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      I agree NMac. Would these folk go to a NHS hospital anyway? I would have thought it wold be beneath their dignity. The best irony would be if their Community Hospital, like the one mentioned by Isobel earlier, was a privately run one.

      • Internal Optimist July 30, 2015 at 9:54 am - Reply

        The community hospital he attended is a privately run one. If you google it you can see it is run by Care UK. The irony…

        • Mike Sivier July 30, 2015 at 10:22 am - Reply

          It turns out that this is not true. See other comments on this thread. However, he was taken to the wrong kind of unit for the treatment his wife demanded.

  10. tiddk July 29, 2015 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Shared on Facebook. Such a well-written piece and so pertinent.

  11. John Gaines July 29, 2015 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Now, if the midget retard would be Emperor spent less time in dirty Vino Bars in Chelsea, extolling his backside licking corporate shills on how he ruined Education for the masses he might have noticed that the NHS WAS ALSO BEEN GUTTED BY HIS FELLOW SWINDLERS.

    My Consultant Son also dumped the Tory theft of NHS resources, nothing would induce him to return to practice here.

  12. john kettle July 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    I despise this woman with a ******* passion.
    She and her husband are a match made in hell, and I can only hope that they both fall from their respective perches like a Norwegian Blue.

  13. drfluffykins July 29, 2015 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    I’ve been following this story, and I am 100% behind the angry frontline NHS staff. However, I don’t think having a go at a member of the public for not knowing the right place to take her husband is very fair.

    I live in Glasgow. A few months ago, we got an utterly baffling leaflet through the door, “explaining” which hospitals were closing and changing function, and where my nearest “minor injury units” and A&E departments were. I dutifully tried to decipher the stupid thing, as I do like to have a clue and be able to work *with* healthcare workers if I or my loved ones need them. The leaflet, unfortunately, was mostly propaganda: “see what we’ve done for you, aren’t you lucky!” The highlight was a map with tiny, tiny print and utterly baffling postcodes. I have no sodding idea where I ought to go, and for what.

    Recently, I did wonder if I’d broken my toe, and thought I ought to go to a “minor injury unit” to get it checked. It’s obviously not an emergency, seems pretty minor to me. According to that article, a broken toe is a major fracture. How the hell are non-medical people supposed to know that?

    Apparently Ms Vine should have taken her husband to a “Centre of NHS excellence.” I really can’t put into words how much I loathe anddespise that terminology. Not, please understand, not because I consider anything about the NHS “not excellent.” The NHS is totally excellent, and I’m massively grateful to have it, which is why I get upset enough to write screeds like this. No, I hate “Centre of Excellence”because “Centre of Excellence” is UTTERLY MEANINGLESS. How is anyone supposed to wade through all this stupid spin, and work out that a “center of excellence” is an appropriate place to take an injured toe, and a “minor injury unit” isn’t?

    Members of the public can’t diagnose stuff. We might know a few “reasons to call 999” and “symptoms you should take to your GP,” but even the most willing of us are going to sometimes be wrong about which Excellent Place of Excellent Excellence we’re meant to take the illness or injury that is frightening us and causing us pain.

    I lay the blame squarely at the door of incompetent managers and politicians, not with the hard-working doctors, nurses, radiographers, and other professionals. I know the management are f**king you over too. The poor, bewildered public are not your enemy, please don’t have a go at us.

    PS The Dr Fluffykins of my WordPress account is a Doctor of Philosophy, and fictional.

    • Mike Sivier July 29, 2015 at 11:26 pm - Reply

      You are aware that Sarah Vine is Michael Gove’s wife, I hope? As such, and as a journalist in her own right, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for her to know exactly where she should have taken him. This is why there is so much outrage at what she – and Tory politicians like Jeremy Hunt – has been doing.

      Secondly, if you are in Glasgow, then the issue you mention about a baffling leaflet should be raised with the SNP government in Holyrood, as health is a devolved matter. The leaflet will have been created and sent to you by the Scottish government and will have nothing to do with the Health Department in Westminster.

      • Pod July 31, 2015 at 10:54 pm - Reply

        “Tory politicians like Jeremy Hunt – has been doing”. Can’t even get the grammar correct let alone the “argument” if there really is one in your “it grows on trees” fantasy world.

        • Mike Sivier July 31, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

          My grammar was correct. You have misquoted me. Are you a Tory, by any chance? This is the kind of thing they do deliberately.
          As for my argument, it’s rock solid. Do you even have one?
          Where do I say “it grows on trees”, for example? And to what am I allegedly referring?
          In short: Please don’t make up lies about what is said here. They will be revealed and you will be made to look very stupid.

  14. vomsters July 30, 2015 at 11:32 am - Reply

    I was, and still am, furious at their attack on Shepton Mallet Community Hospital. A doctor at that MIU was instrumental in saving my husband’s life a few years ago when he developed a severe anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. By the time I got him to the MIU (only 2-3 minute drive) he was barely unconscious & completely unconscious before we even got him on the trolley. One antihistamine injection later and the urgently summoned ambulance staff did not think he needed to be taken to Bath for additional assessment because he was alert, sat up and making jokes. Fortunately the doctor on duty insisted. I arrived at the hopsital in Bath about 15 minutes after the ambulance (I dashed home, told the kids to sort their own dinner, grabbed an overnight kit for him and headed off in under 5 minutes!). Five minutes later my husband’s BP & pulse plummeted. He was rushed into the Resuscitation Unit where what felt like a crowd of doctors & nurses rushed about trying to get him stable (and I stood in a corner, watching and trying not to panic). They succeeded.

    He apparently had a very rare secondary reaction to the sting. Had the doctor not over-ruled the ambulance staff, had we simply gone home from the MIU, there is no way he could have gotten treatment fast enough to save his life when the secondary reaction kicked in.

    As far as I am concerned, the doctors at that MIU are terrific – I’ve raised 2 kids in this town (moving soon), and had a few accidents myself, so have had occasion to attend there a few times in the last decade and the MIU staff have always been wonderful .

    Gove broke his toe. A broken bone is not a “minor injury”, that’s a “go to A&E”. Yes, neither is anaphylaxis but I knew I could get him there for an antihistamine injection faster than an ambulance could get to us. It was a carefully, if rushed, considered decision. Oh, and that was a Sunday, too!

    That drive, alone, from home to the hospital was one of the worst times of my life. I really really advise asking someone else to take you if you are ever in a similar situation.

  15. karenmarieuk July 30, 2015 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    I am not a health care professional and I would not dream of being one in the NHS. Not because of any animosity towards those who do work in the sector, far from it. I have been using the NHS for 50 years and I have had one single instance where the care received was not of the highest standard and this was due to one single individual.
    My son’s life was saved by the dedicated staff at our local maternity unit, not to mention the years of follow up treatment he needed as a result of a birth complication. Not once in all that time have I been treated with anything but empathy and respect.
    No other country has the kind of service we have, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with no questions asked regarding our financial status or insurance details.
    My daughter now lives in South Africa and is treated by British staff at both her GP surgery and her local hospital. All of which costs a fortune I might add.
    Why do our health care professionals have to emigrate to earn the respect they deserve? Our nursing staff are canvassed regularly by Australia, being offered incentives such as housing and vastly improved lifestyles as well as pay that puts the UK to shame! This is just one country from many.
    When, I wonder, will the UK stop this mass exodus and try keeping staff here instead of training more and more staff for them to follow their colleagues?

  16. Alex Clarke July 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    What a disgusting and despicable letter.

    The pomposity and priggishness of doctors is so neatly encapsulated in this letter that I thought at first it was satire.

    Dr. Cartwright, who says he was forced to ’emigrate’ (to that socialist paradise of Abu Dhabi) is an excellent example of the state-funded bureaucrats most of have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and who are now so up their own behinds that they squeal with outrage if they are criticised at all, especially by the people they are paid to treat.

    • Mike Sivier July 31, 2015 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      You’re on the wrong side of the argument. Have another think about it.

  17. paulrutherford8 July 30, 2015 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    It strikes me that if he had been unable to go to [any], hospital or other healthcare service during the week, the injury can’t possibly have been that bad in the first place.

    Or is there an underlying implication that he gritted his teeth and with a ‘stiff upper lip’ continued in his vital parliamentary role so as to not inconvenience his colleagues? A veritable hero.

    So it [conveniently], got a bit sore at the weekend? My heart bleeds.

    When I hit black ice, skidded and flew off the road [at Sugar Loaf mountain in mid-Wales], dropped around 40 feet, and, after waking up, eventually kicked my way out of my upside down car, I was eventually discovered and taken to A&E. My only injury [miraculously being a huge understatement], was a few broken toes. They were self-inflicted of course, due to the urgent need of getting out of an upsiide down, smashed up volvo which was leaking petrol.

    Broken toes aplenty, I left the hospital at 1am with one crutch and the doctor’s instruction to keep off my feet as much as possible for a few days, and take the odd painkiller.

    I seriously don’t think a broken toe is a major problem Mr Gove. However recovering my car *was* a major operation, involving the closure of a main north-south route through Wales for a couple of hours. Oops!

  18. mrmarcpc July 31, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Glad to see this annoying arseclown suffering, well written piece it was.

  19. Marie Meaden July 31, 2015 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Well said!

  20. John Denton August 10, 2015 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    O.K. A broken toe is not a major injury in the sense that it might be life-threatening. However, some of these toe fractures can be a source of major disability if untreated or mistreated. An example, for those interested, would be a displaced intra-articular fracture of the proximal end of the proximal phalanx of the great toe. Sounds full of jargon? Well, yes, but that’s because I plied my trade as an orthopaedic surgeon and know about these things. I wouldn’t expect a “layman” to be fully aware of this stuff, so if you think you might have broken your toe, then seek appropriate advice in a timely manner. Mr. & Mrs. Wewanteveryonetobeconstantlyatourbeckandcall however, seem to me to have known fully what they were about. Are they just self-serving cretins or what?
    P.S. Excellent well-argued letter to start this debate.

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