Fear of year-long wait led John to pay for knee replacement

When John Beaumont, 71 from Barnstaple, reached the point when the pain in his knee meant he could barely walk, he was worried that news of a year to 18-month waiting time for a knee replacement at his local hospital would lead to further problems.

“We always take the dog for a walk in the mornings, incorporating a cup of coffee at our favourite cafes, but as my knee deteriorated over a year the variety of walks we could take diminished,” said John, who is a retired teacher who taught in Barnstaple all his professional life.

He added: “We were having to choose walks which were level with no rough ground, and with plenty of places for me to sit down. As things worsened I could only walk for short distances, I had a bowed leg and I was walking with a pronounced stoop. Not only was this physically challenging, but it was taking a strain psychologically too.”

John was told that he needed his right knee replacing and that he would have to wait for a year to a year-and-a-half for surgery. “I really couldn’t see how I would manage for that long. It was putting an immense strain on my back and other muscles as my body compensated for the knee. My quality of life was badly affected.”

If John was to get the operation he needed before his knee deteriorated further, the only option open to him was to pay for surgery – about which he thought long and hard. He said: “I really wrestled with my conscience, because I am a life-long advocate of the NHS and Socialist principles. It was a hard decision for me, but as a member of my family pointed out – by using self pay I hadn’t taken money out of the limited pool of money available for these NHS operations and therefore that money was still available for someone else to benefit from.”

John researched the various paid-for health options in the area, and eventually decided to pay for his operation at Practice Plus Group Hospital, Plymouth (formally Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre) in Plymouth. He commented: “Not only was it considerably cheaper that traditional private hospitals, I also saw that it is rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission – this gave me the reassurance that I could expect high standards of care.”

John contacted the hospital and via the self pay team arranged his surgery. He said: “The process was very good and very straightforward. The treatment itself was first-class, I couldn’t fault it. Every single member of staff was excellent and all-in-all it was a very good experience. I have absolutely no complaints – I would recommend the hospital to anyone and if I need treatment in the future I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Peninsula.”

John’s operation took place in March this year and he is making a full recovery. “I’m getting on very well with my new knee, and everyone has commented on how much taller I am. It’s lovely to get back to our favourite walks, and not have to think about whether or not I’d be able to do it. Having to pay for treatment was hard for me as it went against a lot of my principles. Although it was a lot of money for me the cost has paled into insignificance, because the operation has given me back my life – it was a really good move on my part.”

Mark White, Hospital Director at Practice Plus Group Hospital, Plymouth, commented: “We are delighted to learn that John is happy with his treatment and with his experience of our self pay option. We introduced it last year as a more affordable choice for patients who did not wish to wait longer for the treatment, or who had been told that the treatment they needed was no longer available on the NHS. While the care of NHS patients remains the lion’s share of what we do, we are seeing an increasing number of people doing what John has done and opting to pay rather than wait.”