'Is it ever going to end?' - Plymouth woman with rare condition has had surgery cancelled six times

  • Watch Jacquie Bird's report

A Plymouth woman who needs life-changing surgery has had it cancelled six times during the pandemic because of pressures placed on hospitals.

Teresa Stuart has a condition called Klippel-Feil Syndrome, a congenital deformity of her neck, which causes her to lose sensation in her arms and hands.

Without surgery, she could be left paralysed.

Teresa has been waiting for an operation at Derriford Hospital but fears that growing demand placed on hospitals by rising covid inpatient numbers means she may have to wait longer as her health deteriorates.

Teresa Stuart has had to face surgery cancellation six times because of hospital waiting lists Credit: ITV West Country

'Am I ever going to get the operation?'

Teresa said: "It continues to deteriorate, and at the moment it's the winter so it's always worse.

"Anyone with muscular skeletal problems will tell you, when the weather is cold you're in more pain and you can do less and I find my mobility is decreasing.

"And I think the stress levels get worse the longer it goes on. So you know it's like, is it ever going to end? Are they every going to stop cancelling it? Am I ever going to get the operation?"

Covid inpatient numbers are rising at Derriford and hospitals across the South West with some hospitals restricting visitors to see their loved ones.

NHS Devon's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says for every one covid positive in-patient, eight operations are cancelled.

Teresa's condition inhibits her strength in her arms and hands and without surgery, her deteriorating ailment stops her from being creative Credit: ITV West Country

'I am unable to do things that I love'

Teresa, who is a keen artist, was due to have an operation but then covid struck and it was cancelled along with five more appointments made since. All of those have also been cancelled.

She added: "I am unable to do things that I love, and I've already had to give up a lot of the things I love.

"When I write I look as if I am illiterate, because I can't grasp, I don't have the fine control over things."

Teresa is not angry with the NHS but the system which she says doesn't see the impact on people like her who are left waiting.

She said: "Surgery isn't about just the physical surgery. It's also about total care of the person that's having the surgery.

"It means psychological care, looking after people, making them feel that they are being looked after and cared for - the NHS aren't being allowed to do that."

A spokesperson for Derriford Hospital says it is doing all it can to prioritse critical surgery Credit: ITV West Country

'Impact on planned routine and urgent surgery'

A spokesperson for the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which includes Derriford, says while it cannot comment on individual cases, it did appreciate the worry that cancelling operations could cause for patients.

It said: "This has inevitably had an impact on planned routine and urgent surgery at our main hospitals.

"With partners, we are continuing to prioritise critical surgery for people with cancer, life and limb saving need, cardiology, and sight-saving procedures.

"We are hoping to increase surgery and appointments as soon as we can, and will keep patients updated."

  • Watch Tony Gravett MBE’s interview

Tony Gravett MBE from Healthwatch Plymouth, an independent organisation which examines local health and care services in the city, is concerned about the medical provision as seasonal demand begins to grow.

He said: "It is really just becoming, in my view, almost unsustainable and we’re not even into winter pressures yet.

"There’s already been announcements from the Department of Health that they expect flu to be worse this year which is going to heap more pressure onto the system."