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‘I’ve been left in agony’ - Arthritis patient on living with steep rise in waiting times

PUBLISHED: 16:02 31 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:09 01 September 2020

Caryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Caryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

The number of people living in chronic pain from arthritis waiting for hip and knee surgery more than 18 weeks has more than doubled amid the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have revealed.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUHThe Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUH

More than 50,000 patients have now waited more than a year for NHS treatment, according to NHS England waiting time statistics, revealing the scale of the impact of coronavirus on the health service.

The situation is particularly dire within the trauma and orthopaedics departments, with in the East of England, 67.9pc of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks – the NHS waiting time target - up from 30pc in January.

As many as 2,303 patients have been waiting for over a year, up from just 77 patients in January.

Caryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCaryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Among those living in pain is Caryl Wright, 69, from Hethersett, who was referred for knee surgery at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in January but has now been told she will probably be waiting until 2021.

She said: “I can feel the use of my leg has deteriorated and I don’t understand why they delay saying you need surgery until it is so bad you can hardly walk. I will be waiting well over a year.”

Having previously had a hip replacement, she requires surgery for osteoarthritis in her knee. She is unable to walk and relies on her nephew Jamie to help with basic households tasks like putting the bins out.

Almosy 70pc of patients waiting for trauma and orthopaedics surgery in the Easst of England have waited longer than 18 weeks. Picture: Versus ArthritisAlmosy 70pc of patients waiting for trauma and orthopaedics surgery in the Easst of England have waited longer than 18 weeks. Picture: Versus Arthritis

“Luckily I can drive without any pain, if I couldn’t I wouldn’t be able to leave the house because I can not walk as far as the bus stop,” she said.

“I have to plan everything that I am doing according to whether I can park nearby, how far will I have to walk? Will I annoy other people by walking slowly?

“I am only 69 but it feels like I am about 20 years older.”

Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer of the charity Versus Arthritis, says waiting time figures reveal stark reality for people with arthritis. Picture: Versus ArthritisLiam O’Toole, chief executive officer of the charity Versus Arthritis, says waiting time figures reveal stark reality for people with arthritis. Picture: Versus Arthritis

Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer of charity Versus Arthritis, which is running a campaign called Impossible to Ignore and a petition calling for action to bring down joint replacement waiting lists, said: “The figures reveal the stark reality for millions of people with arthritis who have borne the brunt of disruption to treatment during the pandemic.

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“Many are still without a surgery date and continuing to wait in ongoing pain and uncertainty.”

Caryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCaryl Wright of Hethersett who is waiting for a knee operation after being referred nine months ago. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MORE: Massive rise in numbers waiting for surgery in Norfolk - up from 93 to 1,739

Anthony Mutti, NNUH divisional operations director (surgery), said: “I apologise for the distress that this delay might have caused this patient. Our teams are working hard to restart services. This includes continuing to work with colleagues in hospitals and primary care across the whole Norfolk and Waveney area to increase our capacity.”

Ms Wright, who is still able to do part-time charity work, said: “Compared to some people I am in a relatively good position because I don’t have to care for someone, I work at home and I can still make myself do the things I want to do however painful they are.

“A friend of mine has been told he may have to wait for a hip replacement for over two years, so there are people in far worse positions than me.”

She added: “The NHS has been starved of money and we are the ones who suffer. I just get the impression that arthritis is one of those things that doesn’t actually kill you so isn’t given the priority.”

• Versus Arthritis free helpline 0800 5200 520 (Monday–Friday, 9am–8pm). Email helpline@versusarthritis.org

• For more information visit versusarthritis.org



Key Facts - Arthritis

• Arthritis affects over 10 million - one in six - people in the UK.

• Two thirds are under the age of 65.

• 50,000 people in the UK are waiting more than a year for planned treatment (ONS latest figures).

• In the East of England, 67.9pc of patients waiting for trauma and orthopedics surgery have waited longer than 18 weeks – the target waiting time set by the NHS.

• Due to the coronavirus pandemic 2,303 patients have been waiting for over a year, up from just 77 patients in January (NHS England figures).


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