"A tale of woe about surgical footwear"

About: Leigh Infirmary / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

I am 62 years old and have severely deformed feet as a result of childhood polio. In June 2009 I was referred to Leigh Infirmary for the provision of new footwear.

Despite my disability I am an active person and enjoy touring the world on my motorcycle. I therefore requested that the boots be suitable for motorcycling, which the hospital agreed to.

I also suggested that the boots be made by a local bootmaker who has previously supplied boots to my great satisfaction. The most comfortable footwear I have ever owned. I was told that this would not be possible as the NHS must use their approved contracted suppliers.

The first pair of boots supplied did not materialise until January 2010, they did not fit and were so painful that after a day of attempting to wear them my left foot was so badly bruised that I could not wear anything but slippers for three weeks. I became dependant on friends and neighbours for shopping and dog walking.

I complained again to the hospital and asked again that the local bootmaker be used only to be informed that it was an impossibility, though the Managing Director did say that new procedures had been put in place to prevent any further problems with the supply of my boots.

A second pair of boots was made and I had to travel at my own expense to Leeds from Manchester to have them fitted at the factory.

Again the boots do not fit. The left boot is considerably narrower than my foot, and the insoles have been built up to accommodate differences in the length of my legs - something which I expressly asked not to be done as I have already adapted over a period of 60 years to the differences in my legs.

I rejected this pair at the review, and was again told that my alternative supplier could not be used, despite the fact that he is used by 12 other hospitals. I was further told that the hospital at Leigh could no longer help me and that I should seek help elsewhere - despite their obligation to provide me with footwear.

I am now left with a decrepit pair of old boots which after 7 years of hard wear are falling apart. The soles are becoming detached and they are dangerous to wear. The left boot has a hole in the sole and I have had wet feet whenever it rains since before last winter. They are my only outdoor footwear. This situation is severely affecting my lifestyle and is having an impact on my health.

I feel that the NHS has failed in its obligation to me and that the existing system of supply is too inflexible to accommodate some cases. Certainly the current approved supplier seems not to possess the necessary skills to make footwear which either fits or which is fit for purpose. If so, why are they approved? Because they are cheap?

I do not believe that the staff who have been involved with this matter would voluntarily wear footwear which injured their feet or which severely altered their gait and stance - if so then why should a patient?

It is infuriating that there is a bootmaker with the necessary skills and experience within a mile of the hospital who cannot be used purely as the result red tape and inflexibility in systems.

In the meantime I am awaiting a reply to my sixth letter of complaint to the Trust which was sent on July 26th 2010. A totally unreasonable delay.

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