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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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Dear Home Office: “The Quality of Mercy is not Strain’d”


Screenshot 2016-06-04 07.36.10

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.

Screenshot 2016-06-04 07.13.17

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.

cardiology map


What happened next:

17 comment on “Dear Home Office: “The Quality of Mercy is not Strain’d”

  • Lilian
    June 5, 2016 | 11:14 pm

    Very pathetic. So inhuman.!!!!

  • Aseye
    June 6, 2016 | 1:01 pm

    This is just sad, mean and inhumane.
    I pray everything works out well. My prayers are with you all.

  • Joyce -Asau-AdjYe
    June 6, 2016 | 2:16 pm

    Anita I am crying ooh. God help John. I don’t know him but I am crying . British Embassy is famous of denying visa to the truthful cases. But what can I say ,one bad apple has put Ghanaians in this position ..

  • Kurankyi Dadson
    June 7, 2016 | 3:41 am

    The anti-immigrant climate we are living in now is so unhelpful. Thank God you were able to get the treatment to him in time. I detest the unfeeling, unreasoning nature of these decisions. I wonder how they sleep at night.

  • Anthony Simpson
    June 7, 2016 | 10:46 pm

    David…..I will make sure Theresa May sees this and I will insist on a response. You are an angel of mercy and a great friend. God bless you.

  • Quakes
    June 9, 2016 | 9:48 am

    Africans, let us learn from these experiences and passionately work towards the development of our own continent….. our educational systems, our healthcare infrastructure and our people. Our aim should be to bring a new dimension to humanity.

  • Maame
    June 9, 2016 | 11:27 am

    I agree with Quakes. Let us Africans also work hard to develop our Continent and for that matter Ghana.

  • Owusu
    June 9, 2016 | 1:20 pm

    I think is about time our leaders do something about this visa refusals money making business this shows clearly is the money they will take from our people that they care about is wrong on all levels and inhumane to the highest order

  • Nana Safo
    June 10, 2016 | 9:40 am

    such a horrible thing to do by the home office. I salute Prof for the bold show of love and care. He is a TRUE MOBA

  • Jay
    June 10, 2016 | 9:52 am

    Obviously MDG didn’t care; not even a phone call to verify? I wonder what explanation the Home Office has for this bogus refusal, they always seem to have some explanation. Waiting for the day they will genuinely admit they made a mistake…

  • Sammy
    June 10, 2016 | 2:41 pm

    Big shame on the home office official. God had his way against such hard heartedness.
    Indeed Africans need to fight to develop our continent. A developed Africa will dwarf the west and they know it.

  • Najat
    June 10, 2016 | 8:33 pm

    May God richly bless you! With all the mineral resources Ghana has we should have been miles ahead on health care but our leaders don’t see this as a priority they are more concerned about how to get rich. God help Ghana!

  • isaac b
    June 10, 2016 | 9:14 pm

    There is a lot to be done on this continent. God help us

  • Yvonne
    June 11, 2016 | 9:46 am

    God bless you for what you did… You’ve shown love for others knows no bounds…

    To the embassy official(MDG), a dear life could have been lost because of your carelessness in your assessment. But when God is in it, there is no limit

  • JuliusBruno
    June 12, 2016 | 3:47 pm

    I feel so bad for this seriously sick man who’s life was toyed with by the Home Office. Anyway! I don’t blame them. We’re always begging them when we already have so much in our hands that we cannot see or use to benefit our own.

  • Helen Sachs
    June 15, 2016 | 8:46 pm

    They Always Say It’s Impossible. Until It’s Done.

    With GOD, “ALL things are possible.” Another way of saying this, “All things are possible to them that believe.” I am very surprised that 37 Military Hospital and Korle-Bu do NOT have Cath labs! “Turns out there is a single functioning cath lab in Accra and it is run by Dr Enoch Anaglate; he uses it mainly for angiograms.” Are you saying that even the functioning cath lab is NOT set up for that kind of surgery and yet the impossible became possible in a mobile cath lab????? I like what you wrote about the “prayer of strong confidence and FAITH” from the family’s pastor and from you two, plus the patient and his wife.

    Pamela and David were going to re-apply for the visa? Why give more money to these people, who think that everybody wants to live in their country?

    You continued, “Nick was thinking, ‘This is total insanity. What are you doing performing this operation in these conditions?’ This is probably the most demanding operation being performed anywhere on the planet.” I love your choice of words, “Sheer insane bravery on behalf of surgeon and patient.” Yes, totally insane and daring on behalf of both surgeon and patient, but they dared because of whom they believed in. All these things became possible and when Nick cried to The LORD, singing, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,” The LORD heard you guys and guided him through.

    Truly, I dare say, Ex Africa semper aliquid novi; “There is always something new coming out of Africa.”

    Finally, I say,
    To David and Pamela: You must have great faith in GOD to allow such delicate surgery to be done in such circumstances.

    To Professor Nick Ossei-Gerning: May GOD bless you for allowing The Holy Spirit to lead you to jump on a plane to Ghana to do what you did. “For as many as are led by The Spirit of GOD, they are the sons (children) of GOD.”

    To Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, my nephew, my big brother’s son; I’ll say it again, May GOD bless you for allowing The Holy Spirit to lead you to do what you did. “For as many as are led by The Spirit of GOD, they are the sons (children) of GOD.” You and your friend took time out of your busy schedules to travel to Ghana, being led and used by The Spirit to save a life because you “dared to believe!” I received a few calls from friends asking if the guy who wrote the article is my big brother’s son. I emphasized that it was the Holy Spirit that led you and Nick to do what you did.

    To Dr Enoch Anaglate: May GOD richly bless you and may you continue to allow HIM to lead and use you always.
    To the Visa Section of The British High Commission in Accra:
    I am very surprised that Ghanaians are NOT sick and tired of giving their hard-earned money to you people who think all West Africans want to go and live in your country. You take money from these poor Africans as “Visa Fees,” deny them and keep their monies. Is the UK the only country in the world for West Africans to visit, study or to go for medical checkups????? Ghanaians should start to make a decision to boycott BA, visit other countries and get higher education elsewhere. College education in China is probably half or one-third of the fees in the U.K. and Ghanaians are going there to study and trade. Because of the EU, your country does not even have enough jobs for its citizens, so why would you think West Africans want to go live and work in your country? Your behavior is a total disgrace and Dawid said, “The United Kingdom is better than that.” Is that right? Are you sure ?????

    To anyone who hears David’s story and wants to make a difference:
    To make a difference, to make that change; it doesn’t have to be just a few people. I suggest that every single Ghanaian who hears your story (Dawid and Nick) and who is led by The Holy Spirit should plan to donate to this cause. First, let’s continue to trust The LORD. Secondly, let’s get the help and advice of my big brother, Dawid’s father, Professor F. I. D. Konotey-Ahulu and his colleagues, how we can set up a Foundation, buy land and build a clinic/hospital that would be NGO (Non Gov Organization). It wouldn’t be just for cardiac catheterization, but for other specialties too, like trauma unit, etc.

    We have a private hospital at Tema, Narh Bita, who goes around to help Ghanaians with free services, you name it. This is a doctor who built a hospital with his wife, a nurse. Now they have a nursing school, a school for physicians’ assistants, housing for doctors and nurses, a rehabilitation center, labs, a theater, etc. We need more of that; we have the doctors and they can donate some of their time to help.

    All Ghanaian doctors visiting Ghana can go and help so that the moneys that Ghanaians are throwing away as visa fees, should be saved and given to specialists who come to Ghana to perform these delicate surgeries, etc. We can do it, ALL Ghanaians. Don’t get me wrong, Ghana has some of the BEST doctors in the world, but the facilities are NOT there. I know a doctor, a Ghanaian doctor, we all know him, who with a stethoscope and his two fingers can locate a tumor in the lungs. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi indeed! Let’s do it so that our young doctors can move back home and help.

    At one time, it was David! Tomorrow, it could be someone else’s family member, so let’s all give.

    I am going to forward your story to my former professors, who are Cardiologists, to pass it around and share it with their colleagues. This should definitely be published. An article written in desperation became a masterpiece!

  • Yvonne Boret
    June 25, 2016 | 5:15 pm

    May the Lord bless all the hands and minds that made this miracle happen.

    It is a shame that this had to happen. I am sure it can be organised for Ghanaian Doctors (not just Cardiac Surgeons) or even convince other other renown Surgeons to give their time to teach at the Ghana Medical School (and other African Countries). It would also be a great idea to raise funds or find a way to obtain the medical equipment required to train the doctors. In addition, this could be organised in about five or six African counties with the rest of the African countries having access to the facilities.

Love to get your thoughts

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