Health tourist claims back cash from NHS

A PENSIONER who borrowed more than £7,000 to pay for a hip operation abroad after being told she was too overweight to be treated on the NHS is trying to claim the money back from health chiefs.

By John Howard

A PENSIONER who borrowed more than £7,000 to pay for a hip operation abroad after being told she was too overweight to be treated on the NHS is trying to claim the money back from health chiefs.

Former Bartlet Hospital canteen worker Moira Ryan, 69, from Felixstowe, flew to Malta with her son for the successful hip replacement.

The total bill for their trip, including hospital costs, flights and accommodation, was £7,200 - and now she wants Suffolk Primary Care Trust to foot the bill.

The PCT had refused her treatment because of its policy of not providing surgery to most people with a body mass index of more than 35 unless they go through a weight-loss plan.

Mrs Ryan said: “I had gone to Ipswich Hospital for an appointment and was told I needed a new hip but was just put on hold after that, they would just not commit themselves.

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“The NHS kept putting me off, telling me to lose weight. I am obese, but I paid my taxes all my life and feel let down badly. I am very, very disappointed - I had to turn to the banks to get a loan and I now hope to get my money back from the primary care trust.”

Mr Ryan, who has three children, flew from Stansted with Operations Abroad, which arranged for her to be picked up at her home, taken to the airport, and met off the plane in Malta. She was taken to the hospital, underwent tests, and was operated on the following day.

She said: “I feel brilliant, and I am back on my feet and doing very well. I am out of pain for the first time in five years. The treatment in Malta was top class and I was not nervous, I knew I had to have a positive attitude. The hospital was spotless, and English is their second language.”

She feels the operation has transformed her life recommended others to seek treatment abroad if they were dissatisfied with the NHS.

A Suffolk Primary Care Trust spokesman said: “The PCT hasn't received any contact from Mrs Ryan about a claim for costs, but is sympathetic of her situation and would be happy to discuss the matter with her if she makes contact.”

He added: “People with a body mass index of more than 35 are given support and advice on how to lose weight, or referred to slimming classes if that is appropriate for them, prior to surgery.

“Losing weight is not only good for them and their health, but there is also evidence to show that people with a BMI of under 35 will have fewer complications following surgery and their recovery rates are better.

“After three months of attempting to lose weight, patients are put on to the waiting list for surgery regardless of the results in terms of weight loss.

“There are a small minority of patients in whom attempting to lose weight may do more harm than good and these patients are considered on a case by case basis and a decision is arrived at in consultation with their treating clinicians.”

A spokesman for Ipswich Hospital said they had complied with guidelines for managing patients waiting for hip replacements in Mrs Ryan's case.