A Liberal Democrat who fell into a coma on holiday and could not be admitted to Charing Cross Hospital on her return says it is worrying how the hospital is already reducing services.
Tamara Dragadze, 70, is standing in Fulham's Palace Riverside ward in the upcoming local elections.
She supported the Save Our Hospital campaign – against NHS proposals to close A&Es and downsize Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals – before the accident last summer.
Ms Dragadze was swimming in the sea while on holiday in the South of France when a waiter saw her floating face down and ran in fully clothed to pull her out.
She said: “Fortunately there was an anaesthetist on the beach who started CPR and a team of local doctors came down from the hospital 20 miles away. I was in a coma for nine days, it was very touch and go whether I would live.
“When I came home I couldn’t go to Charing Cross, my local hospital, because it was already slowly shutting down. I was sent to Chelsea and Westminster, which was very inconvenient for me and my family and then I spent four and a half months at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney to get me walking again.”
- Paul Kennedy, Lib Dem chairman in Hammersmith and Fulham, said members will stand in every ward and hopes to win a handful of seats in May
Speaking against the NHS changes, she said: “The facts speak for themselves. We would need community care services already set up and we don’t have a whole fleet of ambulances waiting on stand-by at Charing Cross to take people to another hospital miles away in Paddington or Chelsea. It’s not happening at the right time.
“There’s been no investment first to build up a backlog of services in the community to support these changes. It’s being done without the proper preparation.”
NHS North West London, which is leading the Shaping a Healthier Future scheme, says there is a clinical need to centralise specialist services, while providing more care in the community. Health bosses say the changes could save more than 130 lives each year in north west London, which serves a population of two million people.
Ms Dragadze, a writer and doctor of anthropology, has lived in Fulham for 33 years where she has stood in numerous local elections, first for the Social Democratic Party then the SDP-Liberal Alliance before the Lib Dems were formed in the late 1980s.
She has never won an election but she came second to the Conservatives in 2010.
“I live in a tribal area that votes Conservative. I stand because I believe in the things I stand for and this time I do hope we can do some last minute U-turn on the hospital changes,” she said.