Mold couple that had hip surgery in Lithuania because waiting lists too long want refund off NHS

  • ITV Wales Journalist Joanne Gallacher Reports

A Mold couple who paid for hip surgery in Lithuania, because they say it would have taken years to get it on the NHS, now want a refund from their local health board.

71-year-old William Thomson couldn't stand without help because of severe pain in his hip. He said: "I couldn't walk more than 100 yards, just couldn't do it."He was told it was arthritis and was added to the waiting list to see a surgeon. His wife Aileen had also been added to the same waiting list.

But the couple were told it could be two to three years before they were operated on.

Mrs Thomson was in the hairdressers when she heard about people travelling abroad for a hip replacement, which was cheaper than having it done privately in the UK.

Not wanting to spend the time they have left in pain, the couple decided to take matters into their own hands, and travel to Lithuania for treatment.

Mrs Thomson had her surgery first and it cost just under £6,000.

When Mr Thomson was in Lithuania with his wife for her operation, he had a scan out there and was told his hip was "bone on bone".

The couple revisited the country a couple of weeks later and Mr Thomson also underwent the same surgery, for around the same price.

That's without the cost of getting there, and accommodation.

Figures published today by the Welsh Government:

The cost of a hip replacement on the NHS is £10,535. By going abroad for treatment, Mr Thomson says he's saved the NHS thousands of pounds, and he wants that money back.

Mr Thomson believes the NHS should refund treatments carried out abroad as the money they would pay him would still be less than the costs of carrying out the operation themselves.

"There's a bit of me that thinks I've actually paid twice for this, through my national insurance contributions.

"I'm not even asking for it all. I have saved the NHS Wales a lot of money, that could go towards somebody else.

"Why should I suffer, and my wife suffer, just because we're fortunate enough to be in the position we're in."

This was an option before Brexit. Up until 2020, patients who received private healthcare in Europe could have a reimbursement under the European Economic Area Directive.There is a scheme which patients can apply for funding for treatment abroad but it all depends on if the NHS can confirm that the treatment cannot be given in a medically accepted timeframe.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said they apologise to Mr and Mrs Thomson for the long waiting times which meant they made the decision to travel abroad.

"We are doing everything we can to provide treatment as quickly as possible to patients across North Wales in order of clinical priority.“We have opened a protected surgical hub at Abergele Hospital to help reduce waiting times for patients waiting for hip and knee replacements".

The health board spokesperson added: "The Welsh Government has also recently agreed funding for a new orthopaedic hub at Llandudno Hospital which will specialise in high volume, low complexity care to increase annual surgical activity.“By providing orthopaedic services away from hospitals, it will reduce the chance of activity being postponed due to emergencies.

"Work at Llandudno Hospital will start in February 2024 with the expectation that the hub will be operating at full capacity in early 2025.

"Elective orthopaedic services will continue at Abergele Hospital until the new hub is built.”

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