A DISTRAUGHT Hampshire woman has been told she will have to wait a year before she can have a vital operation on her back.
Gillian Heath has been suffering chronic back pain for months and is in agony whenever she moves because of two slipped discs in her spine.
The 73-year-old, from Bishop’s Waltham, is on so many painkillers doctors have said if she were to take any more they would kill her.
Her husband Godfrey believes the sheer number of drugs are taking a psychological toll on his wife.
A separate hip replacement operation has had to be cancelled while Gillian waits for her back problems to be corrected.
But surgeons at the Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton have told the couple that due to the heavy demand for spinal surgery she can expect to wait a year before the problem can be fixed.
University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, which runs the service at the Brintons Terrace hospital, admits that patients currently have to wait longer for operations than the trust would like.
Godfrey said: “Her life’s on hold, my life’s on hold. I have to take care of her all the time. Every time she goes to move she’s in pain. I try to help her but she screams and screams ‘I know you’re trying to help but you’re pulling on the pain’.
“I’m at my wits’ end. I don’t know what to do for her.”
Two spinal discs have moved in Gillian’s lower back, pressing on a major nerve, which sends signals to the lower half of her body.
“It’s a wonder the sciatic nerve hasn’t been cut,” said Godfrey, a former house-builder.
Her pain has become so severe that she has been forced to cancel a separate hip replacement operation due to osteoarthritis until this operation goes ahead.
After not getting anywhere with the NHS, he took his wife for a private consultation towards the end of last year. But the vital operation would cost the couple £24,000 – money they don’t have.
“It’s an absolute disgrace. You would have thought that, with a hip replacement needed, it would have made her a more special case,” said Godfrey.
A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton said: “Our spinal service is currently facing heavy demand for surgery which means, unfortunately, patients are having to wait longer than we would like as we prioritise cases based on clinical need.
“We understand this can be frustrating for patients awaiting surgery and would be happy to talk to Mrs Heath directly so we can discuss her case and see if we can provide any additional advice or support.”