The beginning of 2021 brought with it new strains of COVID-19 a new lockdown and more misery for many people suffering with knee arthritis. The NHS struggled over the winter months with both the rising number of serious COVID infections and the usual “winter pressures” brought about by the cold weather.
The NHS took the difficult decision to postpone or cancel many non-emergency and non-urgent operations to protect the NHS.
Unfortunately, this meant that orthopaedic surgery, such as knee replacement surgery, has seen a significant rise in the number of patients waiting a long time for their treatment or even for a referral to see a specialist.
As a patient you will naturally be concerned that you do not know when your operation will take place or even when you will get an appointment to see a specialist.
What is known is that the waiting time in the NHS has risen exponentially and the private sector has also seen an increase in demand as they have given some of their capacity over to the NHS.
Capacity for private operations has been reduced as a substantial proportion of theatre time has been given to the NHS to help ease the pressures on urgent cancer surgery, already delayed because of the last lockdown.
There is hope.
However, as we move into spring there is hope.
The vaccination program seems to be working well and cases of COVID-19 infections in our hospitals continue to fall. As we tentatively step out of lockdown, we will see a gradual increase in capacity and slowly return to normal operating routines. This will probably not be enough to allow the NHS to “catch-up”, and there will need to be radical changes to the way the NHS delivers services going forwards.
With all this in mind I will try to answer some of the questions I have been asked over the last few months.
Are the Private Hospitals Open?
Yes. However, some surgeons have chosen to reduce or stop their clinics and operations at this time. I am available for consultations at the Spire Cheshire Hospital, The Wilmslow Hospital and for Virtual Consultations and can arrange your MRI scans and X-rays. I am also able to provide out-patient treatments such as joint injections. I am also able to plan and perform operations if needed. If you need to be seen by a physiotherapist, I work with a network of physios and can co-ordinate your on-going management or transfer of care.
Is the Private Sector Safe, I've Heard That NHS Patients Are Being Transferred There?
Yes. The Private Sector Hospitals and Clinics operate strict 'Green' Pathways. All patients coming in the facility are screened.
All patients being admitted for a scheduled procedure in theatre must follow strict social distancing and isolation rules and are tested for COVID-19 before admission.
I Have Private Health Insurance, Can I Use It During the Pandemic?
Yes. I am registered as a Fee Assured Consultant with all the major health insurance companies. My team will help guide you through the process of using your health insurance provider to have your consultation and treatment with me.
Should I Wait Until I Have Had My Vaccine Before Coming to See You?
No. It is going to take some months before everyone has had their vaccine. Until then, social distancing measures and restrictions will continue.
To ensure that you can get your procedure when it is convenient to you, this requires more time for planning than previously.
By having your consultation sooner, this will ensure that your treatment pathway can start sooner and give you more flexibility to plan for a procedure should it become necessary.
I Am Worried About Having My Operation in The NHS Because Of The Number of Patients With COVID-19, Can I Transfer My Care to The Private Sector?
Yes. There are an increasing number of people who are transferring to the Private Sector because they are worried about going into the NHS. The NHS remains dedicated to delivering free healthcare for all. Most hospitals have segregated services into 'Red' or CVOID and 'Green' or COVID-FREE pathways, where patients have been tested and confirmed negative. There are also 'Amber' pathways, where patients are asymptomatic, awaiting test results. All the Private Facilities where I work, have remained 'Green' COVID-FREE' facilities.
I Still Haven't Heard from The NHS About My Operation from The Last Lockdown. Is There A Chance I Have Been Lost in The System?
No. Surgeons from all specialties, have spent a significant amount of time reviewing their waiting list to identify patients that need life-saving procedures that cannot wait.
All their other patients have been identified and kept on the in-patient waiting list.
Will My Operation in The Private Sector Be Delayed?
Possibly. Many of the Private Sector Hospitals in the UK have offered to help the NHS with some of the most urgent patients, such as cancer operations. This means that there is a reduction in the availability of theatre time for Private procedures.
Private Hospitals are working closely with Surgeons to try to ensure patients procedures are performed as soon as possible. However, this is being done based on clinical priority.
My team are here to guide you through what will happen next.
Do I Need to See My GP to Get Referred to See You?
No. If you are paying for your consultation or treatment yourself, I can see you without a referral from you GP. Some Health Insurance Companies require that you do have a GP referral. I am fee assured with the Insurance Companies - just ask your GP to address the referral to “Mr. Gareth Stables” as a 'named referral' and it will come through to me.
How can we help?
Here at the My Knee Doc clinic, we aim to put you front and centre of what we do. We have a great team who will listen to you, help you with your knee problem and guide you through your whole treatment journey. We aim to give you the best possible care from the first time we speak to you, perhaps on your free call, through your initial assessment in the clinic, to your treatment and your follow-up. We won’t just discharge you once your treatment is complete. We have a complete aftercare package which means you always have access to our team of specialists.