A 61-year-old woman who is likely to die if her aneurysm bursts has resorted to paying for private healthcare as the NHS is unable to treat her condition as urgent.
Faced with a potential life or death situation, she opted to spend £47,000, taken from an advance on her inheritance, to go private, and is due to have open heart surgery in a few weeks.
Calling in to Labour MP David Lammy’s show on LBC Radio, the patient named Kate said it was “worrying” that NHS trusts don’t treat aortic aneurisms – a balloon-like bulge in the aorta – as a matter of urgency.
She said that if they burst, patients can have an 80% chance of death, particularly if they don’t get to a hospital in time.
“I live in rural Wales, so the nearest hospital for me would be Birmingham, so I don’t think I’d have any chance. I’m not being dramatic, I’m being really honest with you,” Kate said.
“It’s severely restricting my life in that I’m not allowed to walk up steep hills. I had to stop lots of things that I would normally do, I’m quite active normally.”
Fortunately for Kate, she was given a lifeline after her father sold his house over the summer and invested the money into an inheritance pot for her and her brother.
She was offered some money in advance and decided to spend £47,000 on surgery. If she’d stuck with the NHS, she said she’d be looking at a wait of around 39 weeks from November.
“I feel fortunate to be honest with you, but I feel very concerned for people who aren’t in my position,” she told LBC.
“For a life-threatening condition, they call it elective surgery, the only time it becomes urgent is if it bursts or if it dissects, and then you’ve got that mortality risk.”
Lammy also spoke to a 52-year-old woman who has now been waiting nine months for what her doctor described as an “urgent” hysterectomy.
The caller, named Dianne, said she’s now expecting to wait until at least this summer for the procedure, and in the meantime is in “constant” pain.
“There’s no comfortable position to be in, I’ve slept in a chair for weeks and weeks now because it’s painful to lie down,” she said.
“There’s only so many painkillers you can take. Apart from the pain you’re continually tired, you’re very uncomfortable because your tummy is extremely swollen.
“You feel dreadful, you can’t eat properly because you constantly feel full, if you do have something to eat you have indigestion.”
It comes as the NHS faces an unprecedented winter crisis, with people facing long waits in A&E, while patients are kept waiting in ambulances because there aren’t enough beds in hospitals.
According to data obtained The Telegraph, nearly half a million people in the UK have taken out private health insurance in the past year – a possible sign of dwindling trust in the health service.
After meeting with health leaders, Rishi Sunak said that he had a “renewed sense of confidence and optimism” that the NHS could overcome its current challenges.
But when asked, he refused to say whether he and his family were registered with a private GP.
“As a general policy I wouldn’t talk about me or my family’s healthcare situation,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show.
“It’s a distraction from what the real issue is, which is, are we making sure that there’s high quality healthcare available for the country?”