Health

Operation delays: 'Everything is up in the air'

Hospital ward

Tens of thousands of non-urgent NHS operations and procedures in England may be deferred until 31 January, due to winter pressures.

The move prompted Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to apologise to patients. Non-urgent treatments had already been cancelled until mid-January, but NHS England said on Tuesday that would now be extended to the end of the month.

People affected by the delays have told the BBC of the disruption and discomfort caused.

Image copyright Brian Vickers
Image caption Brian Vickers says although his operation isn't urgent, the delay is affecting his quality of life

'The government is in total denial'

Brian Vickers from London had an operation for bowel cancer in March which involved having a stoma (ileostomy bag) fitted. The stoma retracted and severe leaks have been a constant problem.

"I set an alarm for three in the morning every night to empty the bag, but still, on a very regular basis, it leaks. This means a shower, change of clothing whilst my wife changes the sheets.

"The consultant whilst I was still in hospital informed me this would be a problem and I would have the reversal operation once my chemotherapy finished in July.

"I had a long wait until December and since then my operation for the reversal - which is not urgent in the medical sense - has been cancelled twice, along with one provisional date also coming to nothing.

"One side of me does not want to complain, but I am so annoyed with the government who are in total denial with the crisis in the NHS.

"I want my life back, I want reduced power bills, I want freedom from stress and I want an unbroken night's sleep."

Image copyright Lynne Jefford
Image caption Lynne Jefford says a lot of work went into preparing her son Robert for his surgery

'Everything is up in the air'

Lynne Jefford says her son Robert, who needs surgery on his foot, is very upset after his operation was cancelled at short notice.

"My son Robert is 20 years old but has a mental age of a seven or nine-year-old. He has severe special needs, plus epilepsy and a very rare genetic defect.

"He was due to go in to hospital on Thursday for surgery on his foot to help him walk better, as he is in severe and constant pain. On Wednesday afternoon the hospital called to cancel the operation.

"Robert does not understand why the surgery he has been preparing for has now been cancelled at the last minute. He is in tears knowing he will be in pain when he walks.

"A lot of preparation went in to getting Robert ready for this surgery and he had worked himself up for it. We don't know when this operation will happen. Everything is up in the air."

Image copyright Phillip Church
Image caption Phillip Church is a keen wild camper, but his knee injury has halted the hobby

'It was really disappointing'

Philip Church from Bristol damaged a ligament in his knee which leaves him in pain with restricted movement.

"I waited seven weeks between seeing my doctor and getting a date for my operation. I got the date about two weeks before Christmas.

"But I received a letter between Christmas and New Year telling me my operation was pushed back. I saw what was happening with non-emergency operations and assumed I would fall into that bracket.

"Opening the letter, it was really disappointing. My new date, 24 January, is still subject to change. I am only 50/50 on whether the operation will actually happen on the new date.

"I do understand, if your operation isn't crucial, you go to the back of the line. My injury isn't too bad - I can still drive and work - but it has stopped me being able to do my hobbies and it is painful."

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'I've been left hanging'

Ana Gunn from Loughborough was due to undergo heart surgery on Thursday at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

"Following what I heard on the news about postponed operations, I contacted the hospital and was told my operation has now been cancelled.

"I can't blame the frontline staff but I've been preparing myself for surgery since the end of last year, including coming off my beta blockers.

"It's just gut-wrenchingly sad and poorly managed. I've been left hanging with no word on what will happen in the future.

"I'm waiting for a call back from the cardiac clinic to find out what I should do next."

Written by Helen Dafedjaiye, BBC's UGC and Social News

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