OAP has Tunisia hip-op to avoid NHS wait

A SUFFOLK man has travelled to Tunisia for a hip replacement operation – to avoid a 12-month wait on the NHS list and the high cost of "going private" in the UK.

By David Green

A SUFFOLK man has travelled to Tunisia for a hip replacement operation – to avoid a 12-month wait on the NHS list and the high cost of "going private" in the UK.

Jerry Shaw, 71, of Laxfield, had been in pain since the autumn of last year, and finally saw a specialist in February and faced a distressing wait for a NHS operation at Ipswich Hospital.

He contacted about a dozen NHS hospitals all over the country, including the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital, to see if it could be carried out earlier, without success.

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He also enquired about having the operation in a private hospital in the UK but was told the cost would be in excess of £8,000, an amount of money he could not raise.

So Mr Shaw contacted a company in Manchester that arranges operations overseas and was given a range of options.

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They included £8,000 for treatment in a German hospital and £6,000 for the operation in Malta but he opted for the cheapest offer, a hospital in Nabeul , Tunisia.

He has now returned home having paid just £3,200, which not only covers the operation and a two-week stay in hospital, but the air fares and taxis from door to door.

The price would also have covered any need for a longer stay in hospital.

"It was absolutely marvellous. The hospital was very modern, the surgeon did a very good job and the nursing staff were excellent," said Mr Shaw who is married with three daughters.

"I could not have gone on coping with the pain I was getting and I would have been a vegetable by Christmas. I was already taking eleven pain killing tablets a day and it would have got worse," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: "Patients will be seen within 12 months but by the end of March 2004 this will be down to nine months. People are free to make their own choices but we are trying to see people as quickly as we can.

"Waiting lists are based on clinical needs and in clinical terms people will be seen within weeks if the pain is severe," she added.

A full-time smallholder, Mr Shaw is still on crutches but hopes to soon be able to resume work.

He has reported back to his local GP practice where the nurse examined the operation scar and declared it to be in very good condition.

"I feel bitter about having to go private because I have paid my taxes and National Insurance all through my life and expected to be looked after by the NHS but the wait for an operation would have been intolerable," he said.

A spokesman for the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital said: "The waiting lists for hip replacements around the country are practically the same.

"In terms of hip replacements there is a huge demand and there is great pressure on health service resources. Here we carry out about 1,800 joint replacement operations a year."

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