A patient who needs replacement surgery on both his knees may have to quit his job after being forced to wait up to 16 months for an operation.
Rick Loup, 59, thought he had found a way to cure his debilitating pain caused by osteoarthritis when his GP suggested an appointment with a private consultant as a way of speeding up the process from outpatient referral to surgery as an inpatient.
Mr Loup, who works as a duty manager at a garden centre in Edinburgh, paid £160 for his private appointment which led the consultant who saw him to write to his GP saying he required knee replacement surgery.
His GP submitted the expert opinion to the NHS in May, with his local doctor telling him he was now on the in-patient waiting list. However, after checking in September, Mr Loup found to his “horror” that he was still on the waiting list for an outpatient appointment after being told that NHS Lothian did not accept referrals from private surgeons.
He now faces an agonising wait of ten months for an appointment that he’s already had – and a further delay of up to six months before he receives knee replacement surgery which he already knows is required.
The waiting time for an outpatient appointment is 12 weeks from the time you see your GP to the time of a specialist diagnosis, but Mr Loup has been told he won’t be seen until March 2018.
He said: “What’s horrifying is it’s a nine-month waiting list for the first outpatient appointment.
“I’ve spoken to my doctor again and he and his colleagues are still not aware that any policy has changed with regard to accepting referrals for surgery from private consultants.
“The people in charge of the NHS outpatient waiting lists told me it was regrettably a 37-week waiting time for an outpatient appointment, but they wouldn’t tell me who was responsible for this.”
He added: “I’ve just been off for nearly ten days with pain in my knee. It’s a garden centre and I can’t lift anything. I have to drive a forklift, I have to stand behind tills and serve people, I’m putting bags of compost in people’s cars.
“I’m back at work today because someone gave me a lift – I can’t drive. I’m stuck at a computer all day but I don’t think my employers would be wrong in asking me to leave after a few months.
“My job is under threat long term – it’s not sustainable.”
Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said he was concerned about “increasingly lengthy waits” for patients.
He added: “This is yet another case which shows the total mismanagement of our Scottish NHS at the hands of this failing SNP government and the negative impact which their failure to plan is having on individuals seeking care and vital operations.
“I along with many other MSPs have been increasingly concerned at what seems to be the massaging of NHS waiting lists, as well as the increasingly lengthy waits many patients are facing for operations such as knee and hip replacements, especially within NHS Lothian.
“It would seem that in an increasing number of cases, patients are seeing the goalposts being unacceptably changed by SNP ministers and NHS Lothian, which in some cases is leaving patients being left high and dry and facing longer waits.”
The Scottish Government announced an action group to look at ways to reduce waiting times and improve the way planned care is managed.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We would not expect any patient whose treatment has already been diagnosed to have such a long wait.
“We are aware some boards are experiencing difficulties with a small number of patients facing long waits.”