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80-mile round trip sees waiting time cut in half for veteran

March 12 2020

An 81-year-old Leicestershire man is hoping to make a comeback on the squash court after slashing his waiting time for knee surgery by researching his NHS options.

Mike Blaze waited just nine weeks for NHS knee replacement surgery to tackle the osteoarthritis in his knee that had left him unable to walk. He explained: “The problems started 12 years ago. Then I was unable to walk upstairs and it was so bad that, when we were moving into a new house, we were going to re-plan the ground floor to include a bedroom.
“Taking advice from my GP, I started taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin tablets. I also kept up my levels of fitness - playing the sports I loved. However, a couple of years ago the problem started again. I had taken up squash, at 40, and played for almost 35 years. Sadly, that had to stop, and things became so bad that I could not walk for long before my knees seized up. 
“I had heard so much bad press about knee surgery, the poor odds of success and the pain that some people suffer after treatment. I had been keen to avoid it, but I was left with no choice and so I decided to research hospitals and waiting times.”
Mike found that his local hospitals had waiting times of around 18 weeks. However, an hour or so up the road, Barlborough Treatment Centre’s waiting times were, on average, just eight weeks.
He said: “When I started researching, I found that not only were the waiting times low, and the reviews good, but also there was an upcoming open day, so I went along to ask the surgeons and physiotherapists the truth about knee operations.
“I was very reassured by their answers, and the centre was so clean and everyone so helpful and professional that I decided it was worth the journey for treatment.”
The operation went smoothly and Mike returned home with exercises from the physiotherapist and contact details for a 24-hour phone line to a clinician, for any follow-up questions.
Mike said: “It was incredible. At three weeks after surgery I have very little pain, just minor irritation. I put that down to listening to the experts and doing my exercises, without exception, three times a day.”
Mike says that, when the time comes, he will return to the centre to have his other joint replaced as he was amazed at the care he received, from his first operation until he left the centre.
Hospital director Steve Booker said: “Most people do not realise that, in many cases, they have the legal right to choose where they have their NHS treatment. The debilitating pain of bone rubbing on bone, as a joint wears away, can be ended by electing to be treated at hospitals with shorter waiting lists.
“Fortunately, NHS Treatment Centres, such as Barlborough, were designed by the Government to only carry out planned surgery, such as joint replacement and spinal surgery. This means we do not have to contend with the very busy periods experienced at larger hospitals with Accident & Emergency departments and Intensive Care Units, as a result our waiting times tend to be much shorter.
“I am delighted that Mr Blaze is hoping to return to the activities he loves and I would encourage other people who are in pain, or missing out on work or hobbies, to do some research and find out where they can go to get back to their lives and health as quickly as possible.”