The partner of a woman who died from liver cancer after the National Health Service failed to diagnose and treat her in time, says he is holding Tony Blair responsible for her death.
Jacqueline McCoy, a 54-year-old grandmother of six from Basildon in Essex, died in Howard Mansfield's arms on March 9, a day after a bed had been found for her in a cancer ward.
In the weeks leading up to her death Mrs McCoy was sent home from her local accident and emergency department twice, shuttled around her local hospital and allegedly made to wait for days for medication. Days before her death, doubled up with pain, she was left slumped on a plastic chair in a corridor because no bed was available.
At one point she was told she had indigestion and then, later, constipation.
The NHS trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals, boasts the highest levels of performance. One of the controversial new "foundation" trusts, it has met all its government targets.
Mr Mansfield, a former guitarist with the rock band The Troggs, said however, that his partner's treatment by local health services, at a time when politicians are boasting that the NHS is better than ever, compelled him to speak out.
In an emotional interview he said: "When I see Tony Blair on the television, smiling and saying how great the health service is, I feel physically sick. He's the one in charge, and that's why I blame him. I can't go halfway and blame the nurses who didn't do this or the doctors who didn't do that because the whole system is at fault.
"Despite all that is said about the NHS, I always expected it to be there for us. It's what our parents paid for, it's what we pay for and it's what our children are paying for. That's why I can't understand what happened. Where did it all go wrong?"
Recent Telegraph investigations have examined the ways in which hard-working NHS staff have come under pressure to cut corners, to meet government targets. We have also examined how frantic cost-cutting has led to closed wards and reduced staff numbers across the country.
Although Mrs McCoy's hospital will not respond to specific allegations at the moment, her experience may yet be seen as an illustration of the ways in which care can suffer because of the pressures on the NHS.
Mr Mansfield, who is 63 and suffers from arthritis, is being cared for at his son's home near Colchester. There, surrounded by photographs of the woman he calls "the love of my life, and my best friend", he described the events leading to her death.
Mrs McCoy had survived breast cancer in 2001 but last summer she developed chest pains. Tests showed that she had a hiatus hernia. The hernia occurred because the cancer had spread to her liver, causing it to swell - but this went undetected at the time.
When Mrs McCoy went to tell her regular family doctor that the pain had become unbearable she found he had left the practice. Such is the shortage of general practitioners in England that it takes on average four and a half months to fill a GP vacancy. On subsequent visits Mrs McCoy was passed between locum GPs who dismissed her concerns and prescribed ever-larger doses of tablets for indigestion.
In February, when she became unable to swallow, Mr Mansfield took her to Basildon Hospital's A & E department. Twice they attended; both times, Mrs McCoy was briskly diagnosed with constipation and sent away again. She was told that eating bananas would make her feel better.
After two weeks vainly pleading for health professionals to listen to the couple's fears, Mrs McCoy was finally admitted to Basildon Hospital on February 19, where her cancer was found.
Instead of being taken to the nearest specialist unit, at Southend Hospital, she was put in a bed on a general medical ward.
Now Mr Mansfield wonders whether doctors were just trying to get her "out of the way" during her final days.
Staff were hard working and dedicated - he remembers one "absolutely brilliant" young staff nurse in particular.
He said that they were overworked, however, and that his partner's care was sometimes neglected. She called for nurses but none appeared; morphine to relieve her pain was to be given on request but when she requested it she was told that she would have to wait.
A week later Mrs McCoy was sent back to an assessment ward. By then her weight had fallen to seven stone and the skin on her arms was shrivelled from dehydration. An oral thrush infection had left her mouth "looking like the bed of a salt lake".
Despite her condition, no bed was available. For four hours she was left to sit on a hard plastic chair in a corridor.
"I don't know how she coped. She was in so much agony I thought she was going to pass out.
"Nobody apologised for the wait, which made me even more angry. There was a poster on the wall, saying that staff shouldn't be abused. But as far as I'm concerned, Jacqui was abused. During those four hours she was in torture.
"I kept asking why she wasn't on a proper cancer ward and they said they were trying to sort it out."
Next, Mrs McCoy was taken to an orthopaedic ward. Why a dying woman was placed among patients with fractured bones and joint problems is not clear, and the hospital will not comment. A bed shortage elsewhere in the hospital is the likely reason: almost 10,000 hospital beds have been scrapped in England since Labour came to power. No cancer doctor saw her, said Mr Mansfield, despite repeated requests. A prescription for Mrs McCoy's oral thrush apparently took three days to arrive, with no explanation or apology.
On March 8, a fortnight after she had been taken into hospital, Mrs McCoy was finally transferred to Southend Hospital's specialist cancer unit. It was too late: she lost consciousness within an hour of arrival and died shortly afterwards, one day before she had been due to receive chemotherapy.
Mr Mansfield has since lodged a complaint with Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. When contacted by this newspaper, the trust would only issue a statement that read: "We deeply regret that Mr Mansfield has concerns regarding the treatment of Mrs McCoy and we are conducting a full investigation.
"While the investigations are continuing we must stress the findings, to date, show all medical interventions for Mrs McCoy were carried out in a timely and appropriate fashion."
Such an attitude, said Mr Mansfield, has made him only more determined to see his complaints answered.
"I would willingly have exchanged places with Jacqui rather than see her suffer the way she did. Some of her treatment bordered on the criminal. I know full well that what happened to her wouldn't have been allowed to happen to somebody more 'important'."