NHS waiting times forces Swansea woman to travel to Lithuania or face a seven-year wait for surgery

A woman from Swansea travelled to Lithuania for a hip replacement as waiting times in Wales reached record high figures. 

Jill Davies had waited four years for her operation, before being told she’d have to wait at least another three years to receive her hip replacement in Wales. 

She described the news as heartbreaking.

“I burst into tears. I was so frustrated and upset because by that point, over the four years, not only was I gone from having a limp, I couldn’t walk 25 yards. I used sticks all the time. I was in pain constantly.’’  

Not being able to tolerate the pain any longer, Jill started looking for alternative treatments in Wales but the prices were too high. 

“It was so expensive. £15,000-£17,000 I was quoted for a hip replacement here and that would just be for two days in hospital. No after care, no rehab or anything, that would be extra.”

She says her only option was to travel to Lithuania for her surgery, which she described as “first class.” 

Although Jill is on the road to recovery, others are still waiting. 

Robert Pool, 83, from Trecastle near Brecon, lives with osteoarthritis. 

Placed on a waiting list in late 2019, Robert has waited almost three years for his hip operation and claims his condition has gone from bad to worse. 

"My condition has deteriorated for sure over the last year,’’ he told ITV Wales.

"I don’t go out much. There are people out there who can walk around and go about their business, but I can’t walk. I find myself at a great disadvantage and I feel very vulnerable."

Despite being moved into the “urgent” category of the waiting list in April 2021, the date of his surgery is still unknown. 

Mr Poole, who is supported by the charity Versus Arthritis, feels as if he’s been “withdrawn from the world” and says that his pain and frustration is starting to affect more than just his physical health. 

"It’s not just a physical problem that I have, it’s a mental one as well. I’m taking a step back from everything. I’m in here and the world is out there and I get angry with myself, I get cross with the situation as it stands."

The Senedd Health Committee today (Thursday December 2) heard about the human impact of waiting times in the NHS from health professionals and patients’ groups. 

Record high figures for June revealed that 624,909 people in Wales were waiting for non-urgent treatment. Of those, 233,210 had to wait more than nine months to be treated - 10 times more than before the pandemic. 

In a statement, the Welsh government said that they appreciate how difficult waiting for treatment and care can be for people who are in great pain, but that they are doing everything they can to improve the situation. They say they have invested £248m this year to transform services and tackle waiting times.