ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry on how the NHS waiting list crisis is affecting patients and staff
A 29-year-old mum says she felt she had no choice but to take out a loan to pay for surgery to treat her endometriosis after being told she would have to wait two years for treatment on the NHS.
Having fought for four years to have her endometriosis diagnosed, Emma Jamieson faced having to wait for at least 24 more months in crippling pain after she had successive hysterectomy surgeries cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.
She decided to take out a £10,000 loan and set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the £14,000 operation.
Like many people waiting for treatment, Ms Jamieson's condition was not deemed life-threatening, but her quality of life was severely compromised by this much misunderstood condition.
"I'm one of the lucky ones" - Emma Jamieson said she feels for others who can not make the choice to go private as the NHS faces a huge backlog
She said would "dread waking up" and she tells ITV News that she would have been "unliveable" to endure the pain she was in for two more years.
"I had no choice, I felt as if my hand had been forced to go private. I didn't know what else to do, I felt like I had no other option at all because I was living with pretty much daily pain," Ms Jamieson says. "I've had to change a lot of my life just to kind of fit around my illness, because it's hard to live with a chronic illness and then think, 'well, what else am I going to do, other than have to go down the drastic route of paying so much money just for help'."
"I felt that I'd had my hand forced" - Emma Jamieson on why she elected to take out a loan to pay for a hysterectomy
Despite her ordeal, Ms Jamieson tells ITV News she feels like one of the "lucky ones". Many people, she says, "will feel lost and forgotten" as appointments and surgeries continue to pushed back or cancelled.
"It's not just me that's in this situation, it breaks my heart that a lot of other people out there will be feeling hopeless," she says.
"I understand that I'm incredibly lucky, that I could go private. I could have the financial support to do that. And a lot of people aren't in that situation so they will just have to wait the two, three years they are told and it's tough luck, because you have no other option. "So I realised that it's a privilege that I've been able to do this."
The number of patients waiting for treatment surged by 200,000 in the month of June alone, raising the list to to 5.5 million people - the longest it has been since August 2007.
The numbers lay bare the struggle hospitals face in catching up with non-coronavirus related care, and the situation could get even worse - it's been estimated that 14 million people could be waiting for treatment by next autumn.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted the waiting list is likely to rise further, however, when people start gradually returning for treatment as the pandemic begins to ease.
"From my side, I feel in a really good place" - Phillip Read's condition has been deteriorating as he waits for surgery
Phillip Read has been waiting for a replacement heart valve since he diagnosed with valve disease diagnosis was missed after collapsing in October 2018.
In October 2020, his mitral valve disease had deteriorated to severe, and urgent intervention has been required. He has been given no fixed date for surgery, although he has been told he is close to the top of the waiting list.While he continues to work, his symptoms - breathlessness and fatigue - are getting worse and his life is increasingly affected by his condition.
Yet he too feels lucky.
"From my side, I feel in a really good place, I feel very positive. I'm one of the lucky ones, I've been diagnosed, and I've got a date for my surgery and I've got a plan for my surgery. It's those people who don't, either know that they've got a heart valve issue, or those that are waiting, or at the very beginning of that queue, they're going to have to wait a little bit longer now," he tells ITV News.
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Kiran Patel, Chief Medical Officer, University Hospital Coventry says staff have worked "exceptionally hard over the last year" and are facing ever growing pressure as they struggle to clear the backlog often working evenings and weekends. "We've got a significant challenge on our hands. We have some great staff, but of course they've worked really hard over the last 18 months and we're asking them to do even more now," Dr Patel tells ITV News."A lot of our achievements in the accelerated programme has been achieved by doing what we call normal work during evenings and weekends. But of course staff are also tired so we have to recognise the demands on their time."