Earlier this week, an OpenDemocracy article revealed that thousands of people would be impacted by the cancellation of all hospital appointments and non-urgent surgeries that fell on the date of the Queen’s funeral.
At a time when hospital waiting lists are at an all-time high, with almost 6.8 million people waiting for appointments – 377,000 of those patients having waited for more than a year – such a drastic decision feels completely unjustifiable. One thing is for sure, though – those affected will mourn their cancelled surgeries, appointments and treatments far more than they will mourn the Queen.
The 19th of September, for me, was a glimmer of hope – a sense of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. After two years of pushing for answers, I was finally going to have my first cystoscopy, and my second laparoscopy to explore my chronic bladder pain and ever-worsening endometriosis. At just twenty-one, I have been in chemical menopause for over a year due to multiple failures to properly manage my condition, and this surgery was the turning point I have been desperately waiting for.
At this point, I am just desperate for something – anything at all – that will give me answers. That will give me something to work from. An explanation. A break – even if it is just for a while – from the constant unknowing, the obsessing over every new symptom, the relentless cycle that is dealing with chronic illness. But now the funeral of one wealthy woman has taken that little glimmer away from not just me – but from thousands upon thousands of people who were likely placing all their hope and faith in one appointment.
This country is in a time of crisis, in more ways than just one. People are choosing between heating their homes and feeding their families. GP appointments are a rarity, as people across the UK struggle to access basic healthcare.
People cannot afford to live – we’re barely able to afford to survive. Yet somehow pouring what is already reported to be billions of pounds into one funeral is justifiable?
This all just feels like one big cruel joke.
Rescheduling these appointments is not a matter of just pushing things back a day or two. This disruption will add weeks of uncertainty and suffering to the already inhumane amount of time patients have endured at the hands of a broken NHS and a thoughtless Government. It will only further contribute to an ever-growing backlog of patients on waiting lists.
Regardless of your views on the monarchy – whether you love them or hate them – it is simply absurd and offensive to suggest this is an acceptable decision to make in the name of “respect”. Once again, the lives of the chronically ill and disabled have been totally disregarded to accommodate the wealthy, with absolutely no signs of remorse.
Where is the respect for our lives?
Sophie, age 30, is one of many patients who has been impacted by the disruption to hospital services. “I was referred to ob/gyn by my GP eight months ago, and I was scheduled to have a video consultation on Monday lunchtime. Being referred for an internal body issue, I can’t imagine there is much a specialist can do via video call so I was expecting that I would already have to wait another few months after that to actually be seen in person.”
“I’m frustrated that I can’t have my video consultation as it’s just delaying things even more, but I don’t really know if there is anyone I can take my frustrations out on. I also feel that because it was only a first consultation, there are others across the country with far more serious conditions that are being delayed and not getting what they need.”
“Me and my husband are starting to make plans for a family, and it makes me feel anxious that if we do find anything sinister, perhaps catching it earlier would have made a difference.”
June* has also been affected by the last-minute cancellations in accommodation of the Queen’s funeral. “Mine was a chemotherapy appointment for Stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” She told me that she has been stuck on waiting lists since June this year.
“The change to my appointment means my treatment course will finish later, and will impact pre-paid travel plans.”
“This will also change care plans for my mum. It really is a miserable situation. My mum has her own appointment with oncology on Monday, but that is still going forward!”
What is most upsetting about these stories is that, as isolating as it may feel to the individuals suffering, these are not isolated cases. All patients who have had appointments or surgeries cancelled as a result of the Queen’s funeral will feel this pain, anxiety, and mourning regardless of where they are in their treatment journeys.
As now-King Charles steps forwards into his new role, the rest of us are thrust multiple steps backwards. We are left once again in the dark about our futures, our conditions, and our access to desperately needed healthcare.
My question is, where do we draw the line? This is not a matter of being pro or anti-monarchy, it is a matter of logic – and it is simply illogical to believe that such drastic cancellations and closures across the country are remotely respectable or appropriate.
This country has been in a state of mourning for a long time – not for the Queen or the increasingly controversial presence of the monarchy, but for the people constantly overlooked and left behind in its wake. What more will it take for this country to recognise just how little “respect” these establishments have for the lives that need it most?
When disabled and chronically ill folk can access acceptable standards of care, families can feed their children and people can heat their homes without experiencing all-consuming anxiety, then – and ONLY then – should we feel it acceptable to go to such lengthy measures to honour a funeral.