Politician and Strictly star Ann Widdecombe says cancer charities needed to “make up the gaps” in NHS care

Ann Widdecombe. Photo copyright: Poppy Berry.

Ann Widdecombe. Photo copyright: Poppy Berry. - Credit: Archant

Former Conservative politician Ann Widdecombe has declared that cancer charities can 'make up the gaps' in limited NHS care as she visited Norfolk to speak at a Macmillan fundraiser.

The 65-year-old Strictly Come Dancing star, who served as a government minister under John Major and was once Shadow Health Secretary, said the health service could no longer provide everything people today expect of it.

As she prepared to speak at Macmillan Cancer Support's literary dinner at King's Lynn Town Hall, she said people should instead accept the constraints on the NHS and look for other ways to plug the gaps.

'I wish people would stop thinking the NHS can deliver all – it can't,' she said in an interview with the EDP before her visit on Saturday. 'It has never been able to provide everything and never will.

'The NHS is limited. It is limited in time and money. People have just got to accept that. It is no good looking for perfection in everything.'


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At the hospital just a few miles from where Miss Widdecombe –who lost her brother to cancer in 2010 – is due to speak, things certainly have not been perfect.

Last month the King's Lynn Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was put in special measures after it was issued with four warning notices in respect of staffing and supporting workers.

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The new chief executive and chairman imposed by healthcare regulator Monitor have vowed to 'walk the wards' to help put right the shortcomings.

Although she did not directly comment on the situation QEH, Miss Widdecombe said: 'We can only do what we have the resources to be able to do.'

She pointed to how hospitals never used to provide cancer care services like chemotherapy and radiotherapy as they do now.

'Every time they deliver one thing, another demand is put upon them,' she said.

'The demands are soaring towards infinity, so you will get pockets of extremely bad practice.'

She said that was not excusable but was symptomatic of what was going on.

'The NHS is not going to survive until the end of the century in the form that we know it. We've got to be grown up and recognise that,' Miss Widdecombe added.

'It is about what we can do to make up the gaps. Charities can supplement the NHS and make up the gaps.'

Politicians are however 'frightened' of acting because of the 'huge emotional engagement between the public and the NHS', she said. Having seen how Macmillan home care nurses helped her brother during his illness, Miss Widdecombe also knows about the emotional value of the charity.

'I think the best part of Macmillan is indeed the home care,' she said. 'A lot of people who are not going to survive don't want to go into a hospice or a hospital. They want to live with their cancer at home. Macmillan enables them to do that.'

Miss Widdecombe said it was important the charity therefore had funds to do its work.

'The best way we can help Macmillan is by carrying on raising money for them,' she said.

'It is what these sorts of events are all about. The more money they have, the more of everything they can do.'

Miss Widdecombe will be signing copies of her autobiography, Strictly Ann, at the literary dinner at King's Lynn Town Hall, which took place on Saturday.

What do you think about Ann Widdecombe's comments that the NHS can no longer work in its current form? Comment below or write to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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