John is an old school friend of mine whose home is in the heart of an African city. He is acutely ill with a rapidly worsening cardiac condition that cannot be treated there – he needs a procedure that just isn’t available in his country. John is living with a ticking time bomb because he urgently requires percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty – the insertion of stents into the blocked and narrowing arteries in his heart. The good news is that the interventional procedure, though complex and demanding, is perfectly doable here in the United Kingdom. Professor Nicholas Ossei-Gerning is a consultant cardiologist at University Hospital of Wales and he carries out this cardiological bomb disposal work all the time:
“Just get John to me and I’ll sort him out. The angiogram shows he has a tight left main stem and a blocked right. It’s as bad as it gets, but this is what we do here. You need to move fast – he will almost certainly have a fatal heart attack if he does not have surgery.”
So, two weeks ago we set in train an at-all-costs mission to fly John here to the UK. All he needed was a UK visa on compassionate grounds (such a framework officially exists) to come here for emergency medical treatment. We pulled together the funding required to pay for his op and sent off supporting documents to the Home Office. Under no circumstances will John end up costing the NHS or the UK taxpayer a penny. We were all set to cover everything including all accommodation and travel. He should have arrived here three days ago and seen Nicholas yesterday for surgery.
It didn’t work. Some official at the Home Office read through our carefully prepared paperwork and issued a “Visa Denied” stamp. Lots of bureaucratic verbosity and technical legalese but the abridged version of it said:
Dear John, We don’t buy your story. Thank you for the supporting documentation but we don’t believe you really do have your costs covered and we’re pretty sure you are going to make a run for it once you get here.
For the record, John is an top flight architect with a young family. He’s no more about to “make a run for it” than I am to rob the Bank of England. He just wants to receive treatment for his condition and then return to his wife and children.
In support of his visa application, we had attached a bundle of detailed docs (I qualified as a lawyer – I love detailed docs), signed, watertight, letters of financial undertaking with my company’s seal, included my mobile phone number together with an invitation to phone me day or night. But no-one did call from the Home Office. Frankly, no-one cared. If John, dies, he dies.
Not our indaba. Go somewhere else.
So, this is to inform that anonymous Entry Clearance Officer (“MDG”) who coldly issued the Visa Denied stamp of the fact that Nicholas and I are going to board a flight south this afternoon. If you won’t permit John to come here, we’re going to go to him, and Nicholas will operate on him tomorrow, Sunday afternoon. It’s a hundred times more risky than it would be in the UK because there isn’t any back up. There’s no safety net. But John is now in local intensive care because his situation deteriorated yesterday and if we don’t do this thing, the future isn’t bright. Basically it’s either this, or it’s over.
I love the United Kingdom. I am British, born and bred, and so very proud to be. But this week I have learnt that this amazing country doesn’t always deliver on its caring, compassionate brand. Sometimes, we come up short. We are so rich, so state of the art, so well trained, so tech savvy; we have so much in a world where others have so little. Would it have been that big a deal to let John visit for his fully pre-paid life-saving op? MDG: Did you really need to issue your Letter of Denial with “no right of appeal” (just to make sure)?
Tomorrow, Nicholas will operate on John 3,000 miles away. Maybe, we’ll meet with success.
God, I hope so.
What happened next: http://www.dawid.com/medicine/they-always-say-its-impossible-until-its-done/