"spending years on waiting lists."

About: Frenchay Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

I have been having "treatment" for severe sciatica since 2008. This mainly involves spending months on waiting lists for interventions that don't work and then being referred onto another waiting list. In 2011 I wrote to the Trust to ask how they coordinate the care of people with complex and/chronic problems. It took a year of constant asking to get a reply from the Chief Executive to say that they don't know how! ! !

At this time I was offered an spinal nerve stimulator and referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for his opinion. He enthusiastically suggested a spinal fusion instead and assured me that I would not need to go a long waiting list for spinal nerve stimulator should it not succeed. What he actually did was pass me onto one of his less experienced colleagues a week before the operation as he was "too busy" himself.

The fusion actually made me much worse and the promise about not needing to go on a long waiting list was denied. I eventually had a trail for a stimulator in late last year and was told that I would be 2 to 3 months on a waiting list. This was also not true and I am told it will now be in June - six months after the trial.

It is hard to believe that it is acceptable to leave someone in severe pain and with little mobility for so long - especially as some of it is due to an unsuccessful procedure.

I spoke to some at the advice and complaints department and asked if they thought it was acceptable. They declined to comment and said that they understood how I felt but there is nothing to be done.

I am afraid I put the phone down. It feels horrible to have my fate in the hands of a system that I don't trust.

The actual clinicians are helpful but seem demoralised.

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Response from Steven Sykes, Advice & Complaints Team Manager, North Bristol NHS Trust We are preparing to make a change

Dear Despondent – thank you for you feedback about your experience of spinal services at North Bristol NHS Trust. I am sorry that you feel let down by the service. Regrettably, there is a backlog of spinal surgery at the Trust. This occurs in both orthopaedic and neurosurgical specialties and accounts for the delays you have described. This backlog has built up over a several years, and is proving difficult to resolve.

In essence there are two groups of patients; those with very acute problems where any delay in surgery is catastrophic and those with slowly degenerative problems, which although very difficult to live with, are not as critical. There has been a significant increase in acute demand and this has to take clinical priority. Unfortunately, at the same time there has been a reduction in other providers delivering spinal surgery. Due to the complexity and risks involved, only a small number of surgeons specialise in this surgery, and due to the high medico-legal risk, there is limited private capacity. This is why a number of providers have withdrawn from this sector, or significantly reduced their programmes so the number of non-NHS choices is limited and so the Trust is not therefore able to use these to help alleviate the situation.

The Trust has developed a common approach between orthopaedics and neurosurgery and is working with local commissioners to triage patients as soon as possible. We have looked to appoint additional surgeons and work with the local private providers to secure additional capacity. NBT have also sought additional capacity from centres in Oxford and Southampton, but unfortunately, these units do not have any additional capacity available at present and are also suffering from the national shortage of experienced spinal surgeons.

The Trust is currently reviewing our plan for returning to the 18 weeks target. We are in discussion with commissioners to identify what other alternatives may be possible. However, realistically this backlog will take some months to resolve.

I hope the above clarifies why the Advice and Complaints Team were unable to provide you with a definitive answer to your concerns.

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