A record number of patients are waiting for NHS care.
Healthwatch England has warned that many of those on the waiting list are struggling both physically and mentally.
Here, some patients describe the human cost of waiting for care.
– Sybil Williams
Former nurse Sybil Williams, 86, from Minehead in Somerset said that she “couldn’t go on any longer” and felt suicidal while waiting 17 months for her hip replacement.
Ms Williams had a lower leg amputated in 2008 and was waiting for hip replacement surgery on her “good” leg when the pandemic struck.
She was referred to hospital in October 2019, but the surgery was delayed.
Ms Williams said she was not told when she would have her treatment or provided with any support as she waited in pain.
“As I was waiting for my surgery, I would frequently call both the admissions department and the surgeon’s secretary to check on progress – as a reminder I was in pain,” she said.
“The waiting time was dreadful. I was in constant pain and at times thought I couldn’t go on any longer. I felt suicidal in December 2020.”
Ms Williams added: “Due to my amputated leg, I use mobility aids to get around, but I developed a shoulder injury that was so painful I couldn’t move.
“I had lost a lot of my independence and had to turn to painkillers to ease my pain while waiting for surgery.
“When the day finally came, I felt extremely well looked after by the NHS. The surgery went very well too. I have now regained my independence and joy of life. You wouldn’t even know there had been anything wrong with that hip.”
– Toby Salt
Father-of-four Toby Salt, 42, said he feels “abandoned” after waiting for more than 18 months for help with his arthritis.
Mr Salt, a sculptor, from West Sussex was referred to a rheumatology specialist in March last year after he developed severe pain in multiple joints, including elbow and hips.
Mr Salt is yet to receive any update as to when he will see a consultant.
“I’m considering going private, as I can’t live in pain any longer,” he said.
“Living in pain affected every aspect of my life.
“I feel mentally and physically exhausted – I can barely walk and take my children to school as pain is always worse in the morning.
“I’m a sculptor, so carving in wood is becoming unbearable at times.
“I have a backlog of orders I can’t fulfil due to the pain the condition is causing me at present.
“As I’ve been unsupported medically, and I don’t know how serious the illness is, I’m anxious that my business is at risk.
“I feel completely abandoned. I’d like to ask the Government how they expect me to pay extra taxes when I can’t access the very simplest of care.
“And lastly, I’d invite them to think how heartbreaking it is to me when my six-year-old daughter asks me why I can’t do what the other dads can, when I know full well I could do so much more with the right medication and support.”
Millions of people have had their treatment delayed by the pandemic – are you one of them? We want to know if you’re getting the advice, information and support you need while you wait: https://t.co/gqyBno2KE5
— Healthwatch England (@HealthwatchE) September 8, 2021
– Stephen Wischhusen
Stephen Wischhusen, 74, a councillor in Lewes, East Sussex was told in June that he needed an urgent operation to have a stone in his right kidney removed.
He was preparing for surgery in mid-October when he received a letter telling him his procedure would now take place next year.
He said: “I was told that for safety’s sake the surgery should be done no later than October this year.
“Then I was told it would not be until next year.
“I phoned the hospital trust and was told that due to the shortage of radiographers, people like myself have to wait longer for the procedure as currently they only conduct one ureteroscopy per week.
“Since the referral I’ve been living in uncertainty. At no point was I told when my operation is due or have been given a contact number to call if I needed support.
“Considering my medical history, I’m very worried about my health and the implications the delay to treatment can have.
“I feel like I’ve not been taken seriously by the NHS. I’ve been living in limbo, which has been very overwhelming and stressful – and totally unnecessary.
“There are lessons to be learnt for health services, but most importantly, we need proper funding to address the severe shortage of medical specialists in this country.”