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London cardiologist describes heart breaking moment he saw his GP dad die on Facetime after ‘waiting more than 30 minutes’ for an ambulance

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Professor Kailash Chand OBE spent most of his life working tirelessly for the NHS.

When he died on July 26 it sparked an emotional avalanche of tributes painting an image of an incredible man and ‘fearless defender’ of public health services whose work had helped thousands of people.

Tragically though, in his the last hours before his death, the former Tameside GP may have been failed by the organisation he spent so much of his life devoted to and fighting for.

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Now his son, Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London based cardiologist, says the responsibility for a National Health Service which is ‘broken’, lies solely at the feet of the Government and years of neglect.

But having watched and learned from his father the importance of ‘speaking truth to power’ Dr Malhotra is set on continuing Prof Chand’s legacy in fighting for the NHS.

Dr Malhotra speaking at his father’s funeral service

He is now calling on the Government to urgently address a health crisis caused by what he sees as big corporations flogging processed foods, unhealthy diets and the over-prescription of drugs.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, he described the heart-breaking moment he watched his father die on facetime after waiting ‘more than 30 minutes’ for an ambulance.

“I could see the cardiac monitor. He was gone. There was nothing there,” he recalled.

“I’ve been a team leader for cardiac arrest in hospitals, I know when to stop. I told them to stop but they carried on for half an hour. I just said leave him, he’s gone.

Dr Malhotra speaking at his father’s funeral service

“There was shock initially, then I put the phone down and I screamed louder than I knew I was capable of screaming. Then I just cried for several minutes. Then I got the train to my dad’s flat.”

An hour earlier, at around 5pm, Prof Chand, formerly a deputy chair of the British Medical Association, had called his son complaining of ‘chest discomfort’.

When Dr Malhotra advised his dad to go to hospital, he responded that he was worried about ‘bothering’ the ambulance service.

He said: “My dad would always call me for health stuff but I was concerned about this because it sounded like a cardiac problem, the heaviness, the shoulder pain, he was sweaty and his blood pressure had gone through the roof.”

As Dr Malhotra got ready to travel up to Manchester though, he called his father back, and the phone was answered by Prof Chand’s neighbours.

“They said he was in cardiac arrest, they were doing CPR and an ambulance was on its way. I stayed on the line.”

According to North West Ambulance Service records, the 111 call was ‘received’ at 5.45pm with a crew on scene by 5.54pm, entering the flat 6.04pm.

But Prof Chand’s family say it was actually 30 minutes before the ambulance arrived from when the call handler was told he was in cardiac arrest.

Prof Chand was awarded an OBE for his services to healthcare in 2010

Prof Chand was awarded an OBE for his services to healthcare in 2010

Dr Malhotra, has performed numerous keyhole heart surgeries and says he went into ‘cardiology mode’, initially feeling confident his dad would survive.

“I was shocked but took control. The neighbours were panic stricken but I said we’re lucky you are there, the ambulance will be there soon, they will shock him out of it.

“I was actually confident because I had witnessed cardiac arrest, there were fully trained doctors there, an ambulance had been called.

“I thought ‘this is lucky for dad because if he’d been on his own he’d have had no chance. But he was fit and healthy. A few weeks before we’d climbed to the top of a hill in Stalybridge.

“I understand the chain of survival, that to improve survival chances outside hospital after cardiac arrest you get the defibrillator there as quickly as possible. I thought the ambulance would turn up in 10 minutes.”

But as time ticked by he grew more concerned:

“I was getting frustrated initially. I was saying where’s the ambulance, I started swearing down the phone.”

By the time the ambulance did arrive he was losing hope, and despite paramedics efforts Prof Chand was declared dead at 6.46pm.

Dr Malhotra said: “I was on Facetime through the whole thing. It doesn’t make sense and that’s why I’ve made an official complaint. Hopefully an investigation will determine the truth.

“I’m just taking every day as it comes. But the pain is compounded by the knowing he could have and should have almost certainly been saved and all the injustice that goes with that.”

But Dr Malhotra believes this tragic incident is just a symptom of a deeper issue that cuts through to the core of the health service.

Dr Aseem Malhotra holds the Government indirectly responsible for his father's death

Dr Aseem Malhotra holds the Government indirectly responsible for his father’s death

“These are unprecedented times when it comes to emergency response – and once emergency response is failing that’s a clear symptom of a broken NHS. It’s not at breaking point, it’s not under pressure.

“It’s completely broken. We need to accept and acknowledge that, understand why – and do something to fix it.

“Last time I saw my dad we’d had a conversation about how the NHS has to take a look at a huge culture of silencing whistle-blowers. That seems ironic now.

“Dad taught me to always speak truth to power. Silence, in a way, is becoming complicit.

“I want something to come out of his death, to make people aware and make change happen.

He added: “I think I personally will hold this Government indirectly responsible for his death and directly responsible for getting into a situation where ambulance crews are not capable of meeting patients in a timely fashion.

“I know why – the Government has done nothing to address it for 10 years. And the public should know that too.

“Even with this information about my dad’s ambulance someone senior in the NHS told me not to speak out, that I’d make more enemies.”

Dr Malhotra says growing demand on the NHS is driven primarily by ‘diet-related disease and overprescription of drugs’, with poor diet behind 11m deaths a year – more than smoking and alcohol combined.

The root of the problem, he argues, is the ‘very powerful food and pharmaceutical’ industries which drive an increase in heart disease, diabetes and poor health.

He said: “We’ve been campaigning on this for 10 years but the Government has not been listening. I think because of the ignorance among very senior people in the Department of Health.”

He argues that there has been too much commercial influence on decision-making at the top, leading to biased or ‘commercially corrupted’ decisions which end up being damaging to people’s health.

“We are incredibly losing our access to the truth and we are increasingly dividing and losing our capacity for empathy. This is a recipe for a mental and physical health crisis and that’s exactly what we’ve got.”

Dr Malhotra has now been appointed chair of a charity called the Public Health Collaboration.

Made up of 200 healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses and dieticians, as well as 300 members of the public including patients, it’s funded solely by-the-public for-the-public to push forward public health and fight for changes in the law.

He continued: “Two hundred years ago businesses could only operate if they were producing something beneficial to society.

“We’ve gone from there to a situation where big corporations can advertise products that are damaging and detrimental to health. We have to address the commercial drivers of disease.”

He argues that Covid deaths too, could have been reduced had the country as a whole had healthier lifestyles and cigarette-like regulation on ultra-processed foods.

“I’m a practising cardiologist, I’ve reversed type 2 diabetes in patients in a few months through them changing their diet, cutting out processed and starchy foods. The science is there but there is opposition from powerful vested interests that profit from misinformation.

“Covid has highlighted we are all vulnerable to poor health, even Boris Johnson. We are all affected by worsening mental and physical health.”

He argues healthy food must be more affordable, and one route to solving this is to stop tax avoidance by big corporations:

“We’ve got a situation where very rich and powerful companies are stealing from the poor.”

Prof Kailash Chand with his wife Anisha Malhotra

Prof Kailash Chand with his wife Anisha Malhotra

Dr Malhotra, whose older brother died aged 13 from a virus which attacked his heart, and whose mother Anisha Malhotra, also a GP, sadly passed in 2018 aged 68 following a heart attack, says he is now alone apart from extended family and friends.

He said: “My mum also suffered from a lack of resources and staffing and didn’t get the best possible care.

“My dad was my last surviving member of my immediate family and I’m single so I don’t have any other direct family to support. I have lots of extended family but they are abroad so for me on an emotional level it’s particularly hard.

“But my dad inspired me, both my parents did, with their unconditional love and support and guidance.

“They have given me the strength and wisdom to meet this difficult time, this challenge, and carry on with the campaign to continue my father’s levacy to protect the NHS and core values, and improve public health.

“I will use all my knowledge and my role to fulfil those aspirations.”

Kailash Chand was named on the list of the Health Service Journal’s top 50 healthcare pioneers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Born and brought up in India, he was also one of the only Asian doctors to make it on to a ‘power list’ put together by the GG2 Leadership Awards which celebrate high achievers from those communities.

Prof Chand had since retired from his job as a GP in Ashton.

He was honoured an OBE in 2010 for his services to healthcare.

Dr Malhotra said: “Dad not just an amazing and wonderful father, he was my best friend. We shared so much, whether it was our intellectual discussion about politics, health, our mutual enjoyment of sport, watching movies together.

“We were very very close and since I left home and to uni we would speak three to four times a day.”

But it wasn’t just his son who admired his father.

“As a human and in the public eye he was known as a staunch campaigner and representative who was never afraid of speaking truth to power.

“He had real integrity with everything he did as a doctor but also I would say he was exactly that as a human being too, in a way that touched people’s lives on a personal level.

“He had the rare attributes of being very wise, extremely smart but also kind and compassionate, combined with courage.

“Andy Burnham described him as one of the kindest souls to have ever walked the planet. I was very lucky and fortunate to have him as my father and he was my guiding influence as well.”

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:

“This is an incredibly sad case and our deepest sympathies go out to Dr Aseem and his family.

“We are committed to supporting ambulance crews who work tirelessly responding to emergencies every day and there are hundreds of new ambulances on the roads across the country thanks to our investments.

“We will continue to ensure the NHS has what it needs, including through our new Health and Social Care lev, which will see £36bn go towards health and social care services across the UK.”

A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Dr Malhotra and his family and can confirm that we have received a formal complaint from him. We are investigating the incident and will liaise with the family to discuss the matter further.”

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