Frustrated pensioner goes abroad for op

A PENSIONER who was refused a double knee replacement because doctors said she was overweight has told how she re-mortgaged her home to pay for the treatment abroad.

By Danielle Nuttall

A PENSIONER who was refused a double knee replacement because doctors said she was overweight has told how she re-mortgaged her home to pay for the treatment abroad.

Betty Tupman, 78, claims doctors at Ipswich Hospital refused to operate on her, even though she was in chronic pain, until she lost weight.

And, despite losing four stone after seeking treatment for a thyroid problem, the former Metropolitan police officer said she had still not had her operation after two years.

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Unable to walk, the pensioner decided to take matters into her own hands and took out a mortgage on her home so she could have the treatment abroad.

And last night she told how she felt like a new woman after undergoing the operation in Malta during a 15-day break.

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“I was sick of waiting. I had severe arthritis in both knees,” she said.

“I needed my knees done urgently. I was on crutches and morphine. I couldn't move about at all.

“I couldn't go on any longer waiting for them to do something. It was taking too long. I was almost like a zombie with all the morphine.”

Ms Tupman, from Felixstowe, contacted a company called Operations Abroad, which arranges medical tourism packages abroad.

She was sent a brochure with the different places she could have her treatment and she decided to opt for Malta.

“I thought I have to do it. I'd thought of selling up and going into a nursing home because I had been on morphine for so long and couldn't eat or walk,” she said.

“I had to pack up my degree course. I'm 78 and my whole life seemed to be coming to a stop and it was so unnecessary. So I took out a mortgage on my house.”

Ms Tupman, who was a further education lecturer before retiring, said the entire visit cost less than £15,000. This included travel for her and her friend, accommodation in a four-star hotel, airport transfers and the double knee replacement itself.

“It was absolutely amazing. The hospital was first-class. They cared whether you ate or not,” she said.

“The consultant came in every day so did the head physician. It made you feel so secure. It was very personal. We were in a hotel two doors away from the hospital.”

Ms Tupman said the treatment has given her a new lease of life.

She is planning on completing her degree and has already taken up a new course in social policies.

“I'm so happy now. I'm back doing everything I always did,” she said. “I couldn't drive for more than five minutes before. I feel really great. You couldn't believe it if you could see me now.”

Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “We have a duty to make sure that we only add people to waiting lists when it's actually the right thing to do for the management of their care and that it's safe for us to go ahead and do the operation so people have the best chance of a strong recovery.

“This is especially important for major surgery. Sometimes, because of this, there is a delay between a patient seeing a specialist and being advised that it's in their best interests to reduce their body weight so they stand a much better chance of making a full recovery.

“We understand that it can seem that you're waiting a long time but actually clinicians are trying to manage people's care in the best way so they are seen when it's safe and they are fit to be operated on.”

She added: “Miss Tupman would have been treated within the waiting time standard had she chosen to remain on the NHS waiting list.”

But Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said there needed to be a change in the rules which allowed patients to be added to waiting lists at the time they are told they need to lose weight.

“It's a really sad thing that somebody that age should have to re-mortgage their home for an operation which should have been available here,” she said.

“I do think it's very unfair. It's hard enough losing weight but if that doubles your waiting time that's appalling.”

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