(This article was last updated on 14 June 2020)
“When will I be able to have an operation on my knee?”
This is a question we’re being asked quite a lot at the moment.
It’s totally understandable. For three months, we’ve all been engaged in a tremendous collective effort to fight COVID-19, from private hospitals becoming NHS treatment centres to the lockdown itself. One side effect of all this, of course, is that elective (non-emergency) surgery has been on hold.
Now that the country is emerging from lockdown, many people’s thoughts are returning to that subject. If you were due for knee surgery before lockdown, will it be able to go ahead soon? If not, how long will you have to wait?
When will elective operations start up again?
Some are actually due to begin again in June. We have our first NHS elective list planned for the end of the month at Sarum Road Hospital. After that we hope to start doing some private cases, working up to joint replacements hopefully in July. At this point it’s difficult to say when other hospitals, such as the Royal Hampshire County in Winchester, will start opening up for elective surgery. But we hope to start with some day care surgery in the next few weeks.
Will lockdown mean longer waiting times?
Hospitals won’t reopen for elective surgery until they’re 100% confident about safety – and that’s absolutely the right approach. Once things are fully up and running again, surgeons will be keen to get back to their lists. But given the three-month pause during lockdown, it’s inevitably going to take time to work through them – as one healthcare provider to the NHS pointed out in a report last month.
Is private treatment worth considering?
This is a very personal decision, and a lot depends on your own circumstances: whether you already have healthcare insurance, for example, and, if not, whether you would consider self-funding. And it will be influenced by how badly your knee issue is affecting you: many “non-urgent” cases, after all, can be very painful or difficult to live with. But once elective surgery does return more widely, it’s likely that private operations will be able to move quite quickly.
How does going private affect the NHS?
Broadly, the private system can be helpful for public healthcare. The NHS has been fantastic over the past few months, delivering world-class treatment in exceptionally trying times. In that sense, having private surgery helps take pressure off public waiting lists, freeing the NHS to continue its great work in acute care. Of course it’s very much a personal choice, but if you feel you’re really struggling – that you’re desperate for a solution – it may be worth having the conversation.
How would going private affect my own NHS treatment?
There are a few things to bear in mind if you’re thinking about switching to private for your knee treatment. Although your position on an NHS waiting list shouldn’t be affected if you have a private consultation, you can’t mix different parts of the same treatment between NHS and private care (see this article for a little more guidance on that). If you opt for private surgery, for instance, you should let the NHS know so they can take you off their waiting list. But once you know your likely waiting time for surgery, that may be a good time to weigh up the pros and cons and make a judgement call.
There’s no question that the past few months have been tough for everyone. When you’re struggling with a bad knee problem and it’s having a real impact on everyday life, any kind of waiting feels interminable. But whatever happens over the next few months, it’s important to know that there are solutions – whether that means surgery or another kind of treatment. The one thing you shouldn’t feel is that you have to suffer in silence. If you’d like to think through the options, drop us a line. We’re ready to talk and we’d love to help you.
For further reading: some useful resources
Coronavirus latest – updates on treatment from Nuffield Health
Paying for additional care – the NHS’s guidance on using private and public healthcare
Paying for treatment – a guide by BMI Healthcare
Ways to pay – a similar introduction from Nuffield Health