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Channel 4 Dispatches programme features tragic death of Sittingbourne pensioner Rodney Gates

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The death of a retired Army officer from Sittingbourne is to be featured in a hard-hitting television documentary tonight.

Channel 4's Dispatches programme at 8pm reveals the effects of under-funding of the NHS leading to desperate staff shortages on the frontline, delayed diagnosis, dangerously long waiting lists, botched operations, needless deaths and outdated equipment.

Rod Gates in his garden in London Road, Newington, with his prized chrysanthemums
Rod Gates in his garden in London Road, Newington, with his prized chrysanthemums

Among those interviewed is Helen Gates, the niece of Rodney "Rod' Gates of Newington who died in hospital after being hit by a lorry.

A coroner's jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure after hearing that there was neglect by nurses supposed to be monitoring his condition as he recovered at Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham.

During a seven-day inquest at the Shepway Centre, Maidstone, assistant coroner Kate Thomas heard how Mr Gates, 84, had been returning to his home for tea when he was "clipped" by a lorry near roadworks on the A2 at temporary traffic lights.

The force spun Mr Gates round and as he fell he broke his right leg.

The inquest heard that Mr Gates' injuries had been "survivable" but he died a day later in hospital.

Medway Maritime Hospital, Windmill Road, Gillingham
Medway Maritime Hospital, Windmill Road, Gillingham

Witnesses said he should have been monitored every hour because of a risk of internal bleeding while waiting to have his leg mended but no such observations were carried out from 6.30am on the day of his death. He died that afternoon at 4.50pm from a cardiac arrest following a bleed.

Miss Gates, a former maths teacher at Fulston Manor School who is now a lecturer at Solihull College and University, said: "A number of different factors very sadly led to the untimely death of Uncle Rod. He was not an 'old' 84-year-old.

"He was with-it mentally. It was not like he was on his last legs. We all thought he had a good few years left.

"He loved his daily crossword and still looked after his own garden. His Chrysanthemums were his pride and joy. You'd never see a weed there.

"He grew all his own vegetables and he still did all his washing by hand. His death came as a huge shock to the family."

Flowers were left in Newington High Street following the death of Rod Gates
Flowers were left in Newington High Street following the death of Rod Gates

It was on April 5, 2018, that Mr Gates was hit by a Scania lorry on the busy A2 as he tried to cross the road. He had been to his local pub The Bull Inn for a pint at 4pm and was heading home just before 5pm.

Mr Gates was born in Sittingbourne and attended St Michael's School before moving to Rochester Technical School at 13. At 16 he began a five-year apprenticeship as a shipwright at Chatham Dockyard and later was called up for National Service.

He liked Army life so much he signed on as a regular soldier with The Buffs and retired as a warrant officer after 22 years in the Pay Corps having served abroad in Germany and Cyprus.

At Mr Gates' inquest the coroner said short staffing needed to be addressed by the hospital's trust.

Miss Gates was contacted by the programme's assistant producer Victoria Noble after she read about Mr Gates' inquest on KentOnline. Miss Gates said: "They spent three hours interviewing me at my home about staff shortages at the hospital. The NHS needs more funds so it can recruit more staff with appropriate experience."

Dispatches presenter Matthew Syed. Picture: Channel 4
Dispatches presenter Matthew Syed. Picture: Channel 4

According to the TV programme Clapped Out: Is The NHS Broken? presented by Times and Sunday Times journalist Matthew Syed, long-term under-investment left the NHS struggling to cope even before the pandemic.

It says the UK spends a fraction on its healthcare per head compared to European neighbours: £2,989 per person in 2017 compared to £4,432 in Germany and £3,737 in France.

It added: "In parts of the UK, there’s just one GP per 3,000 patients. Nationwide, that number is three per 1,000 - the lowest ratio in Europe.

"Currently 10% of NHS jobs are unfilled and there is a shortage of 40,000 nurses. By 2024, there is predicted to be a shortage of 11,500 GPs."

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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