Hospital admits it cannot afford private referrals as grandmother’s operation is cancelled
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A grandmother has been left unable to walk after an operation was cancelled at the 11th hour - because her hospital can no longer afford the private referral.
Betty Battelley, from Dereham, had been due to undergo a replacement hip operation on November 30 at The Spire private hospital in Norwich, having been referred by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
But last week the 81-year-old received a phone call from NNUH saying the operation had been cancelled for financial reasons.
Mrs Battelley has instead been placed on a general waiting list and faces the prospect of dealing with "awful pain" for another nine months.
She is one of 131 patients whose scheduled operations and treatment have been postponed.
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"When I got that phone call I was so upset - I was in tears," said Mrs Battelley. "I've had to resort to a wheelchair already, so I hate to think what I'll be like in 40 weeks' time.
"I've always been so active, going to the gym and walking all the time. With my hip problems I haven't been able to go beyond the end of the road.
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"I was so pleased to finally get this sorted out. I was so close and it was just taken away from me."
For several years hospitals have referred patients to private hospitals, including The Spire, in order to meet government waiting list targets.
But now the NNUH has been forced to postpone many of its referrals, admitting its private sector cash pot has run dry.
Sam Higginson, chief executive at NNUH, said he was "very sorry" to have cancelled the private procedures.
He added: "We made this very difficult decision as we have exceeded our private sector spending for the year and have had to reduce the number of private operations for the rest of 2019/2020.
"Our sincere apologies go out to the patients and families affected by this and the distress this has caused. We will be contacting patients to rearrange for their procedure to be returned to the NNUH waiting list.
"We have contacted all those affected who had operations scheduled for November and we are contacting those due to have private surgery in December and January."
Anyone with concerns is encouraged to call the NNUH orthopaedic department on 01603 647650.