"I feel my Dad has been let down by the NHS"

About: Addenbrooke's Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as a relative),

This is my father’s story. He is now 86 and was first offered a hip replacement in April of last year. He asked to postpone this, as at that time he was medically well and my mother’s need at that time (he felt) was greater, as she was due to go into hospital the next week for her hip op. She has severe Osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other medical problems. He felt he needed to be able to care for her when she came out of hospital.

In August 2008, when Dad’s hip op was rescheduled, it was cancelled the night before the op, due to a problem with his blood, but no one informed us. So when we rang to see how the op had gone, late morning, we were then told it had not taken place.

It was rescheduled for October 2008, but two weeks before this he developed heart failure and was admitted to hospital, he had also been suffering with a rapid weight loss and loss of appetite. GP tests did not show anything. Again it was cancelled. A scan showed a large tumor growing on the left kidney and we were told although Dad was in chronic pain with his hip the most important thing was to get his kidney and the tumor removed.

By this time he was a high risk patient, so far as any surgery and anaesthetic. When we saw the urologist he said Dad did not need to have his kidney removed at this time, as the risk from surgery was so great, and the tumor was not actually giving him any problems but his hip was the priority. They decided on December 24th and contacted the orthopaedic consultant to say they felt it was a priority for Dad to have his hip operation.

All along we have had to insist a decision is made, regarding his hip. We lost 2 weeks due to Christmas. When I rang the consultant's secretary on 6 Jan 09, her first day back after Xmas, it was to be told that the consultant had gone on a sabbatical so he would not be doing Dad's op. She suggested we go back to the GP and get a new referral back to another consultant. In hindsight this may have been quicker.

We saw a new orthopaedic consultant on 13 January this year, who took over Dad’s case from the previous consultant. At first he said he would not do Dad’s op because of the risk and that he may die on the table. Dad is old but not stupid and has been making decisions for himself all his life. Again he said he would prefer death to the continued pain he is in, morphine does not even work. Eventually he said he would do the op if his anaesthetist was happy to anaesthetise Dad. He told us it would be the end of February or beginning of March this year.

At that time the consultant said his hip was so bad now a hip replacement would probably not be possible, but a 'Girdlestone' procedure (a resection arthroplasty of the hip) would be all he could do. I asked in January if he could do it any sooner as that was still another 6 weeks away. He said no he couldn't.

His anaesthetist agreed. I rang the consultant's secretary not having heard anything on the 2nd March. I was told it will not be March as the consultant is away on holiday for the month.

I made a fuss (it seems to be the only way) and we now have a date for 17 April. This is nearly 4 months since the decision was made that his hip was the priority and urgent. And if I hadn't made a fuss, when would we have got a date?

I understand and appreciate some of this is beyond others control; no one could have predicted Dad’s medical problems. But I can't understand how he has been put to the bottom of list. He is in chronic pain, can now hardly walk at all. The longer it is left the worse he gets medically and the harder it will be to get him up on his feet after the op.

We fully realise we may lose our father, but this is his wish, to have the operation. We are committed to supporting him with this. His life is a living hell due to the pain and he has been considering going to Switzerland for euthanasia. Mentally I feel he has given up as he feels let down by the orthopaedic team. He still doesn't believe they will do the op, he feels he will not live to get the surgery done.

I feel the Consultant did not want to do the op that is why he has left Dad so long, thinking he would die before he has to operate. In the last 6 months I have watched my father turn from a fairly healthy man to someone who is now almost unrecognisable. This is due to the cancer and the constant pain.

I will be taking this further and writing a letter of complaint which will be sent to various people, asking for a full investigation as to why my father has been left to suffer in such a dreadful way.

What I can't forgive is that there was no honesty. We weren't told the first consultant was going away on a sabbatical, we lost valuable time there, time Dad can't afford. If the second Orthopaedic Consultant had said no and left it at that we would have found other means of getting Dad his op, privately either here or abroad, but they have left him hanging on to deteriorate daily, with just a crumb of hope to keep him going until the next disappointment.

I wonder why in a society where if a dog was suffering in such a way you would either operate or put it to sleep, has my father not been given the same consideration for his needs regarding the surgery, or his wishes to make an informed decision once the risks were laid on the line for him?

I am disgusted with the hospital and the two orthopaedic consultants concerned.

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