‘Almost indescribable pain’: life stuck on an NHS waiting list

Brenda Pugh has severe arthritis and has been waiting for a double hip replacement for 11 months. She lives in Hampshire. Here the 61-year-old former learning and development manager at a London law firm describes the “unbelievable pain” and long wait for surgery:

“My GP diagnosed arthritis in both my hips in late 2019 and a month later the physiotherapist she referred me to said physio wouldn’t help and only surgery would help. I went on the waiting list for a double hip replacement at my local hospital trust in June last year – 11 months ago.

“I deteriorated quickly after my diagnosis. Since then my knees have gone too, so I’m now completely immobile. My life is on hold, waiting to have my operation. Then there’s the not knowing what to do and coping with the unbelievable pain.

“There are so many things I used to do that I can’t do any more. Before arthritis I enjoyed swimming, running and walking my dog. But now I can’t drive and I can’t walk unaided. And I’m housebound. I can just about walk from the sofa to the bathroom, but otherwise I can’t move.

“It’s almost indescribable pain, like standing on jagged glass. I live on painkillers. I can’t imagine that’s good for me, but it’s the only solution at the moment. And I can’t sleep properly as I can’t get comfortable.

“Previously getting washed and dressed, doing my hair and putting on my makeup took me 20 minutes. Now it takes three hours, from seven until 10am, because my movements are so slow and so painful.

“It’s a pretty horrendous situation. I’m getting desperate, I have to say. My GP is pushing for me to get the surgery. The supposed maximum waiting time is meant to be 18 weeks. I keep getting letters from my orthopaedic consultant saying that he’s doing what he can but is working at only two-thirds capacity and so doesn’t know when I’ll get my operation.

“I understand that Covid has disrupted a lot of the care hospitals provide. But there are other medical conditions apart from Covid – things like arthritis, and cancer and liver problems – and they need attention too. I’m not blaming the NHS. I know there’s a lack of resources, especially staff. But at the same time I do feel very let down; I feel forgotten about.

“I know I’m one of millions of people who need hospital treatment. There are now just under 5 million people waiting with different illnesses. It’s hard not knowing when I’ll be seen. I hope that the surgery will let me meet friends for coffee, go shopping and walk again. But will it be another month or another two years? I just take one day at a time. That’s all I can do.”


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