A grandmother from the Ards Peninsula who may have to wait a total of seven years for a hip replacement says she fears she will fall and end up in A and E.
Mary Curran is 64 and still works full-time, but she says this is only because she can work remotely.
The Cloughey woman said the wait is particularly frustrating because she is unable to lift and play with her young grandchildren, the youngest of whom is just one week old.
She shared her story after a watchdog report revealed that the number of people waiting for elective surgeries is at a "critical" level.
Mary received a hip replacement in 2019, and anticipating she would have the other one done in 2020.
This operation was not one of the 60,000 procedures carried out in 2020 when the pandemic brought some parts of the health service to a standstill.
98,000 were carried out in 2022, but this was still not up to pre-Covid levels of 111,000 in 2019.
Mary has been told she will likely continue waiting until 2027 as the health service struggles to work through the backlog whilst facing budgetary and staffing issues.
"When I got my first hip replacement in 2019 I had been hopeful of getting the other one done in 2020," she said.
"And then we all know what happened in 2020. So I wasn't even reviewed back at Musgrave until February 2022 And at that time my consultant's waiting list was expected to be 12 months.
"I got a letter this February 2023 to tell me that the waiting list was my full four years and seven months... 55 months to be exact."
"When I got my first hip replacement in 2019 I had been hopeful of getting the other one done in 2020," she said."And then we all know what happened in 2020. So I wasn't even reviewed back at Musgrave until February 2022 And at that time my consultant's waiting list was expected to be 12 months."I got a letter this February 2023 to tell me that the waiting list was my full four years and seven months... 55 months to be exact."
Mary told UTV she feels like one of the lucky ones.
"I don't want to just speak on my own behalf. It is awful for people who have lots worse things wrong with them and struggle with pain day in, day out. Arthritis plain is bad, but in my left hip, the big danger is that it gives way without warning.
"I am so afraid of ending up in A and E and taking up more NHS time.
"I can't carry my grandchildren. I can't play with them. I can't take them to the park. I'm lucky and I still work it because that was one good thing came out of COVID that we all realised we can easily work from home.
"And I'm happy to do that, but if it hadn't been for that I would have had to just leave work.
Mary said she is also concerned about another waiting list she has been on for less time - she has an eye condition called myopic macular degeneration which caused her own grandmother to go blind.
"She says she has been waiting for an appointment for this issue 14 months.
"I'm just afraid that there are some things I might be able to do to halt the process. I kind of accept that I may well go blind in my very old age, but if there was anything that could be done, I'm just afraid that it's not being done."
The Department of Health has welcomed today's report on tackling waiting lists, which highlighted that...
- Between March 2014 and March 2023, the total numbers waiting for either an initial outpatient appointment, inpatient treatment, or a diagnostic test have risen by 185% (from around 244,000 patients to 696,000 patients);
- At March 2023, 49% of patients (around 197,000) were waiting over a year for an initial outpatient appointment, compared to 21% in March 2017;
- At March 2023, 54% of patients (around 64,000) were waiting more than a year for inpatient treatment, compared to 14% at March 2017; and
- At March 2023, 46,500 patients (27%) were waiting over 26 weeks for a diagnostic test compared to 9,700 (14%) at March 2017.
In response, a statement said: "The Department is clear that budgetary pressures and uncertainty have been a major impediment to elective care provision.
"Today’s report correctly emphasises the crucial need for a sustainable funding framework for our health service."
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