A Lancashire dad feels like he has been “cast aside” by the NHS after being refused funding for a hip operation for a condition that is causing him constant crippling pain. He tells AASMA DAY of his desperation
Bending down to pick up his son out of his cot is an excruciating task for Neil Eccles when his pain killers have worn off.
Neil, 32, who lives in Grimsargh, Preston with partner Tanya Smith and their 14-month-old son Jack, explains: “I am like an 80-year-old cripple without my painkillers. I am walking around with a limp.
“Even bending over to pick up my son is a struggle when my painkillers have worn off.
“When you can’t pick your son out of his cot, there is something seriously wrong.
Neil, who works as a maintenance engineer at BAE Systems in Samlesbury, had always been physically active and played football, golf and did a lot of cycling.
It was about two years ago that Neil first started noticing a constant pain in his hip, lower back and groin area.
At first, he went to see a physio and had about half a dozen sessions, then the physio wrote a letter recommending a scan.
Neil went to his doctors in mid 2015. He says: “The doctors were really good. They arranged a scan and an X-ray fn my hip.
“I was then referred to Euxton Hall Hospital for an MRI scan it found ligament damage in my right hip. I had two labral tears in my right hip which was the cause of all the pain issues.
“I had been compensating for this for so long and that’s why the pain had come.
“It has gradually got worse and worse.
“The doctor said I needed a hip arthroscopy to eliminate the pain.
“I could have had cortisone injections but he said he would not recommend it because of my age so he thought surgery was the best solution.
“I then had a consultation with the surgeon in January 2016.
“It was at that session that he dropped the bombshell that they did not have the funding to do that procedure any more.
“He said funding was on hold for this operation in the Preston and Chorley area.”
Neil appealed against the decision but in May 2016, he learned his appeal had not been successful.
By this time, Neil says the pain in his hip and back areas were not only affecting him at home but at work too.
He explains: “Being a maintenance engineer is a constant manual role which requires me to be active. I have to work in confined spices and at height and am lifting things - it is a physically demanding job.
“By this time, I had stopped physical activities and it was a very stressful time.
“I made an appointment to see my works occupational health advisor who wasn’t happy that I was at work while not being able to perform to my full potential.
“I received a letter from work addressed to my doctor informing them that if I did not urgently receive the surgery required I could become unemployable.”
Neil began the cycle again and his doctor referred him back to the consultant as well as prescribing him some powerful painkillers.
Neil had another set of X-rays and MRI scans which showed that not only had his right hip worsened but he had developed the same ligament issues in his left hip.
Neil had another appointment to see the surgeon but was again told there was no funding.
Neil says: “It is not the doctors or surgeons fault - they are on my side.
“It is down to the CCGs in this area not releasing the funding.
“In Blackpool and Fylde, they still get funding for this operation.
“Doctors just kept giving me painkillers as there is nothing else they can do. But the painkillers are upsetting my stomach lining.
“I am in a lot of pain and can do nothing without pain relief. The problem is now my right hip is affected as well because I have been over compensating because of the pain.
“I have the option of going private but it is £6,000 per operation and I need two operations.
“I’m in constant pain which affects me in every aspect of life and if things get any worse I could end up losing my job.
“But it could all be resolved with this surgery.
“People in the NHS are doing a fantastic job, but they have their hands tied.
“The Government has pulled money from other areas so everything is draining the NHS and the demand on the NHS has increased so much.
“But it is futile as if I end up not being able to work because of medical reasons, I will be a drain on the system in other ways.
“I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall.
“My health and future has just been cast to one side by a system I contribute to on a monthly basis.
“I have just been left in limbo with nowhere to go.”
A spokesman from Chorley and South Ribble CCG and Greater Preston CCG said: “NHS Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Greater Preston CCG review all clinical policies in line with national guidance, to ensure they satisfy the criteria for effectiveness, cost effectiveness and ethical delivery.
“The full clinical policy on a hip arthroscopy can be found on the CCG websites. Please note that the current policy in place is under review, and this review will take place against current evidence based on best practice including NICE.
“A Pan-Lancashire policy has been in place for hip arthroscopies since October 2012.
“This is because the effectiveness of certain procedures and medications can vary significantly among patients, so for some people treatments can be more harmful than they are helpful.
“The NHS has to make sure it is using its limited resources in a way that gives patients the most health benefits.
“Since this time, hospital consultants are required to request approval for funding from the CCG before carrying out certain procedures including a hip arthroscopy.
“The process for this request is as follows:
“Referral - a doctor will discuss with the patient their condition and ensure that they meet the criteria for surgery.
“If the patient does not meet the criteria, this means that the surgery could be more harmful than helpful and the doctor will be able to suggest alternative non-surgical treatment that could be more effective at improving symptoms.
“Specialist - a consultant will review the patient’s symptoms and history and if they think they will benefit from surgery they will then request funding from the CCG.
“The case will be reviewed by the prior approvals team to confirm that the patient has met the criteria and the patient will be contacted with the outcome.
“Where funding has not been approved this means that the patient has not met the set criteria and therefore the surgery will not be the most effective treatment for their symptoms.
“In all instances clinicians will suggest alternative treatment to help patients alleviate their symptoms.”