The Government is extending the controversial ‘Care in the Community’ programme to include ‘Intensive Care in the Community’. With NHS bills spiralling and a growing shortage of beds, the Department of Health announced that the new scheme would enable desperately ill patients to begin to re-integrate with society while they were still lying unconscious attached to a life support machine.
The first ‘Intensive Care in the Community ’ patients were wheeled out of St Thomas’s Hospital and relocated in a nearby neighborhood re-intergration project in the heart of the capital. However critics of the new scheme say that it is purely a cost-cutting exercise and that the quality of intensive care suffers when patients end up being parked underneath railway arches or abandoned on park benches. During the night a number of charities such as the Salvation Army found themselves not only providing accommodation but also performing emergency life-saving operations on people they had found left outside the hospital on trolleys.
Speaking from his new operating theatre in a disused subway behind Waterloo Station, volunteer doctor Nadim Chowdray said having critically ill patients out on the streets was making it impossible to perform surgery while ensuring patients remained free from infection. ‘Look around this place. There are pigeons crapping from up above, used needles lying around and alcoholics continually coming up and asking if I can spare any change. It’s the second least hygenic place I have ever had to perform surgery. After the hospitals.’
Junior Health Minister Jennifer Craster agreed that getting patients away from known MRSA hotspots (or ‘hospitals’) had been a factor in devising ‘Intensive Care in the Community’. But the government are also keen to develop a less interventionist approach to modern medicine. ‘Increasingly we are learning how important morale is to the fight against illness. With patients stuck inside, wired up to all sorts of intrusive machines, they are inevitably going to get depressed. How much better that they are out in the fresh air and the sunshine where we can let the wonderful human body recover the wholly natural way.’ Doctor Chowdray however, remained sceptical; ‘The human body does have a ‘wholly natural’ means of responding to serious illness,’ he said. ‘It’s called ‘death.’