Hertfordshire arthritis sufferer undergoes new NHS hand operation at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson

The agonising pain of arthritis in his hand meant Allen Richer was unable to make a cup of tea, open a packet of biscuits or unscrew a jar.

Now, the 57-year-old is one of the first NHS patients to benefit from a new operation which replaces the joints in his thumb - and has been compared to a hip replacement, but for the hand.

Severe arthritis in Mr Richer's thumbs hugely restricted the use of his hands and left him with a level of pain which meant he could no longer work.

"It got so bad my wife was having to open packets for me and jam jars," said the father-of-two of Royston in Hertfordshire.

"[It was] the finer things I was finding it really hard to open and deal with generally.

"With the arthritis, the bones started to rub together. That was very painful and I found it hard to do anything at the time."

Three months ago Mr Richer was one of the first people to receive a new procedure on the NHS at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Now after a regime of thumb exercises using a rubber band to build the muscle, he said it had transformed his life.

The new operation puts in an artificial ball-and-joint implant at the base of the thumb

Surgeons replaced the joint at the base of thumb with a precision-made ball and socket implant made of stainless steel and polyethylene, similar in appearance to a hip replacement.

It is not suitable for all sufferers but can have better outcomes than the current standard treatment called a trapeziectomy, where a small bone is removed from the hand to help stop arthritic joints rubbing together.

Consultant surgeon Alex Reid treated Mr Richer under general anaesthetic as a day patient.

Mr Reid said: "I'm really impressed with the results I've seen using this thumb joint replacement.

"Patients experience great pain relief and they get more mobility and pinch strength back than with trapeziectomy.

"It really is transformative for these patients and we really are pleased to be involved in their journey.

Mr Richer said, after three years of extreme pain, it was all very straightforward - and he is now awaiting an operation on his other thumb.

"It only took about three-and-a-half hours and I was back on the ward and pain-free, really. Just a little bit of discomfort and it's just got better and better," he said.

"I'm almost back to normal now. It's just a case of building the muscles back up and you forget about how much pain you were in beforehand."