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‘The government let down my dad’: NHS nurse’s son asks why he was never tested or given hospital treatment after catching fatal coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:30 02 April 2020

Thomas Harvey with his son Thomas. Picture: Harvey family

Thomas Harvey with his son Thomas. Picture: Harvey family

Harvey family

The heartbroken son of the NHS nurse who died in self-isolation after catching coronavirus from one of his patients has asked why his dad was never tested for the disease or given hospital treatment while he was alive - despite his family contacting the NHS for help five times when he couldn’t breathe.

Thomas Harvey with his daughter. Picture: Harvey familyThomas Harvey with his daughter. Picture: Harvey family

Father-of-seven Thomas Harvey, 57, who devoted more than 20 years of his life to the NHS and worked at Goodmayes Hospital in Redbridge, had been ill for nearly two weeks when he died in the bathroom of his home in Upper Clapton, Hackney, on Sunday.

His son Thomas, 24, has described how his sudden death has left his family feeling confused, and “wondering what would have constituted an emergency”.

“At the start he said he felt a little bit fluish, and it wasn’t until a week before he died that we called the ambulance, but they just told us to refer to the government website, so obviously we were confused,” he said.

“His breathing was terrible.

“When a man who is usually healthy and works six days a week and is active and has a social life, is limited to the sofa or floor, he can hardly breathe, he can hardly hold a conversation and hasn’t eaten for eight days - what does really bad look like?” he asked.

“We genuinely feel if he was given medical attention then, this could have been prevented.”

Thomas understands that emergency services have been “really stretched” during the epidemic.

“That’s not down to the staff but down to the way things have been handled,” he said.

“There aren’t enough people to handle the callers to 999 and 111 every day, and people who are calling are unaware of how serious or not serious something is.

“I just wish that considering he was at the frontline of the NHS, and that he came in contact with a patient who has the virus, that he had been tested and diagnosed sooner, and given the attention that he needed.

“My dad gave 20 years of his life helping people selflessly, and at a time when we have called nearly four or five times for someone to give him some attention, it just wasn’t given to him until it was too late.”

The government has come under fire for failing to approach levels of testing in countries such as Germany, and not following World Health Organisation recommendations.

Thomas’ family understands he treated a coronavirus patient without any personal protective equipment (PPE) before they were removed from the ward and sent to isolation. 
The government has also been criticised for the lack of PPE equipment provided to all NHS workers since the start of the epidemic.

Coming to terms with Thomas’s death is proving hard for his family because it was so sudden.

“In my entire adult life my dad has never had a sick day,” said his son who has just graduated with a degree in fashion.

“We genuinely thought he was recovering, especially in the last two days when he started to eat and he was making jokes again.

“My mum saw him at 3am on his last day, and she asked him how he was doing. He crossed his fingers and said he thought he was getting better and he didn’t want to jinx it. I woke up to hear him gasping for air as he was trapped behind the toilet door.”

Thomas paid tribute to his father who was a “really selfless man”.

“Ever since I can remember he was a constant worker,” he said.

“As kids we got used every Christmas to opening our gifts in the evening. He would work every holiday because a lot of his patients didn’t have any family. It was just to make sure they weren’t lonely around those times as we had each other. That’s the kind of person he was.”

He continued: “To think that his death possibly could have been avoided, is what breaks my heart.

“There’s no blame on the staff. It’s blame on the lack of PPE equipment and testing, and I guess down to the government for a lack of funding and the lack of attentiveness towards him, considering he’d been in contact with one of his patients who has the virus.

“It shouldn’t have happened, and more than anything we want to make sure other families do not go through this.

“Coronavirus isn’t just affecting people with underlying health issues. My dad was healthy.”
NHS England has been approached for comment. 
The Department for Health and Social Care said it “did not comment on individual cases”.
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