'I feel useless': Neath man waits six years for 'urgent' hip replacement

A man has spoken of his frustration and said he feels "totally useless" after waiting six years for a hip replacement.

Paul Smith, from Neath, was referred for surgery in December 2016 - and he is still waiting.

He told ITV News he feels, "Total frustration. I feel totally useless on occasions”.

Humour is a big part of how he copes, adding “if you’re laughing you can’t be crying”.

Paul said he often receives letters from Swansea Bay University Health Board. It is part of their efforts to review the orthopaedic surgery waiting list, and includes a survey asking patients about their condition, and whether they still want surgery.

There are various options to pick, with Paul saying that the surgery is “still wanted urgently”.

Paul says he often uses humour to help deal with the ongoing situation. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

He says it is very frustrating to receive this sort of letter: “If I needed it three years ago, you can imagine what it feels like now”.

Paul contacted ITV News after seeing a previous report on Andrew Oliver, a farmer from Gower who could be waiting six years for a hip replacement.

Latest figures from NHS show that there were an estimated 577,400 individual patients on treatment waiting lists across Wales in November 2022.

Despite a 27% reduction from the peak of planned care in August last year, the recovery plan target has not been met.

More than 45,000 pathways, which could include the same patient on multiple waiting lists, were waiting for more than two years for their surgeries.

In 2019, Paul came aclose to having surgery, but on the day of the appointment the consultant looked at the x-rays and found his other hip was in a worse condition.

Paul said everyone agreed they should treat that hip, for which he is "grateful", and that he could return to have his original hip sorted as soon as he recovered.

Then the pandemic hit. And now he is still waiting for that original hip replacement, six years and two months later. 

Swansea Bay University Health Board said it is very sorry to hear of Mr Smith’s concerns and recognise that waiting times for orthopaedic surgery are “far longer than anyone wants”.

As part of plans to address the backlog, three new theatres for orthopaedic and spinal surgery will be opened at Neath Port Talbot Hospital in June, whilst ten beds in Morriston have now been put aside for some of the longest waiting patients.

The “ultimate aim” is that by April 2024 no one will wait more than two years for treatment - Paul very much hopes he will be seen before then.

Responding to the latest waiting times figures, a Welsh Government spokesperson explained: "In April last year we set a target to eliminate the number of patient pathways waiting for longer than a year for their first outpatient appointment by the end of 2022. We knew that this would be challenging, but we wanted to see a real focussed effort on this by health boards.

"We are disappointed that this ambitious target, which was not set in England, has not been met. We will continue to press health boards to focus on the longest waiters, once the urgent cases have been dealt with."