'The pain levels get worse and worse' - Swansea woman waits 15 years for knee surgery

A woman has spoken of her frustration after waiting 15 years for knee surgery.

At the end of this month, Christine Haley from Swansea, will have a knee operation she's been waiting for since 2008.

She said the wait has had a "huge impact" on her life, saying she moved from a house to a bungalow because she "couldn't manage the stairs anymore".

"The pain levels get worse and worse, year by year" Christine said.

"The medication gets stronger and stronger, you have to take other things to counteract the effects of the medication."

Christine is also concerned about the financial costs of waiting times to the NHS.

Christine, 67,  said when she was initially referred, it was for a partial knee replacement - but now she requires a full knee replacement.

One of her main concerns is that the longer people are waiting, the more complex their care becomes and as such the cost to the NHS increases.

She said: "I'm now costing them (the NHS) a fortune where as if they'd done it properly when they should have done it, I wouldn't have.

"There are so many others like there just like me waiting, waiting and waiting for the post that never comes."

There are several reasons why Christine has waited so long, including having other operations and health conditions.

Swansea Bay University Health Board said that previous dates for surgery had been offered but that it wasn’t possible to proceed.

They said they’re "very sorry" to hear Ms Haley’s concerns and pleased that her surgery is happening this month. 

Paul Williams shows ITV Wales cameras one of the new operating theatres.

The Health Board has some of the longest waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in Wales.

Latest figures from Stats Wales show 17% of treatments for trauma and orthopaedics take longer than two years - nearly double the national average. 

To improve the situation, the Health Board has just opened a £21 million complex consisting of three new theatres and five pre-assessment rooms at Neath Port Talbot Hospital. ITV Wales cameras were given exclusive access to it.

Paul Williams is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and believes it will be a "massive game changer" in reducing the waiting lists.

He said there are around 5,000 people on the orthopaedic waiting list, with 2,000 waiting in excess of two years.

But waiting times in orthopaedics is not just an issue in Swansea Bay, it is a problem across Wales. 

“We are intensely aware that there are literally thousands of people in Wales who have been waiting a long time - in particular for orthopaedic surgery” said Health Minister Eluned Morgan.

Navin Verghese is the clinical lead for the National Clinical Strategy for Orthopaedics.

The Health Minister conceded that it had been an issue before the pandemic, but that facilities like the new Neath Port Talbot Hospital complex will help, as it separates emergency cases from planned care.

Navin Verghese is the clinical lead for the National Clinical Strategy for Orthopaedics.

He said one of the main reasons for the waiting times across Wales  is that whenever the NHS faces a ‘stress test - the biggest being the covid pandemic’, it is orthopaedic beds that get closed down to take the capacity from accident and emergency departments.

He said establishing regional hubs, like this new centre in Port Talbot, will really help ring fence orthopaedic beds so that more patients can be treated.