'I spent savings rather than wait'

From BBC - October 17, 2017

Hospital services are facing mounting pressure. Staff shortages, rising demand and a squeeze on budgets mean waiting times are rising in many places.

And while the health service still sees most patients quickly - whether they turn up at an accident and emergency unit, need cancer treatment or have to have an operation - growing numbers are having to wait longer than they should.

So what is it like for those caught up in the system?

'I waited so long I gave up and spent most of my life savings'

Christine Moon, 66, was on holiday in Bali in 2015 when she started feeling chest pains. When she returned to her home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, she went to see her GP and ended up in hospital having all number of tests on heart.

"Eventually, they said, 'I am very sorry, but we have decided you have a 90% block in your coronary artery,'" she told BBC News.

This was in August last year. She then waited until November to see a consultant, who said she needed a coronary bypass but there would be an additional 18-week wait.

So, 18 weeks later, she rang the hospital.

"I was told they were way behind and they had absolutely no idea where I was on the waiting list," Ms Moon told BBC News.

"No-one at the hospital could tell me when I was likely to have my operation."

Every week, patients in more critical need of a bypass were being referred to the hospital, effectively bumping her further down the queue, she said.

"I could not do any housework, I could not do stuff that I normally did. My symptoms were getting worse, but I was not going to have a heart attack."

In April this year, 32 weeks after being diagnosed, she gave up on waiting and paid 16,000 to have the operation privately.

"I had to think long and hard about it, but it was really hanging over me," Ms Moon told the BBC.

"I was more and more depressed, and just not able to get an answer out of anyone."

Having the operation had given her "bags of energy" and her life back, she said.

But, she is angry and has spent much of her savings.

Ms Moon told the BBC: "Eighteen weeks seems to be this magic number they come out with that is just lies.

"Would I still be on a waiting list if I had not gone privately? I may well have been."

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'Doctors want something they can fix in 10 minutes'

Holly Wilson was nine years old when she started seeing doctors on a regular basis.She had a condition where her white blood cells infiltrated her bowel, causing inflammation and pain.

Since then, the 22 year-old, from Chichester, has been in and out of hospital.

"The list is endless," she said, of the number of medical conditions that cause her day-to-day pain.

Her entire body is affected, including her connective tissue, joints and gut, and once she had a cyst on her ovary "the size of a grapefruit".

"At one point, I was in hospital 30 times in a year," Ms Wilson told the BBC.

"There are a lot of problems - I am very, very complicated. I am always known as the difficult, complex patient."

She has noticed waiting times increase, and recently had to wait more than 10 hours for a medical slip to give to her employer to allow her to return to work.

Her most recent medical issue is a fast heart rate and palpitations.

Doctors are trying to diagnose what is causing it, but it can take up to 18 months between being referred for tests and getting the results.

"The long wait for this diagnosis - it's a lot of not really knowing, which makes it stressful," Ms Wilson told the BBC.

"Doctors want something they can fix in 10 minutes."

"They are trying to see so many people in such a short amount of time."

But Ms Wilson's three folders of medical history do not make this easy.

"Doctors look at all these notes, and they are just too much for one person to take them in," she said.

"I do not feel the notes are being read or paid attention to as much as they should be."

Ms Wilson does not want to "bash the NHS".

"They have done a lot for me. Without them I would not be alive," she said.

"It's just frustrating as I have been in and out of hospital since I was very small and I have noticed the change."

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