Treatment Waiting Times - Arthritis Action

The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably resulted in long treatment delays, leading to a record number of people now waiting for surgery and routine treatment. A survey of our members revealed that 1 in 4 (23%) had their operations cancelled or postponed during the pandemic, with over a third (35%) not knowing how long they have to keep waiting. By early March 2021, more than 300,000 NHS patients in England alone may have been waiting more than a year for routine surgery.

 

What can I do while I wait?

Your rheumatology team are still contactable as normal if you are waiting for a surgery or appointment and need to speak to them about anything regarding your health. In the meantime, there are a number of things you can do to self-manage your arthritis, helping you to address both the physical and mental impacts of arthritis.

It is also worth remembering that since July 2021, the number of people admitted to hospital for procedures is getting back to pre-pandemic levels, meaning that the waiting list may decrease in the near future.

 

Resources

Here is a list of useful resources to help you self-manage your arthritis while you’re waiting to receive routine treatment or to be seen by a healthcare professional:

  • Our Online Self-Management Resource contains helpful videos detailing how you can manage your arthritis and reduce painful symptoms while you wait to be seen by a healthcare professional, including resources to help improve aspects of your life including diet, work, exercise, planning ahead and mental health.
  • Our Pain Management webpage includes information and advice on managing the pain you may feel during an arthritis flare up.
  • Our Mental Health Directory provides a list of the mental health support available in your area.
  • Our Chair-based exercises help you to strengthen the muscles that protect and support your joints, particularly if your muscles are currently weak or if you find it hard to stand for long periods.
  • The Diet and Arthritis page includes useful tips and healthy, arthritis-friendly recipes that you can try at home.

 

Our Members’ Stories

If you find yourself having to wait longer than you expected for surgery or routine treatment, you are not alone. Many of our members have had consultations and operations pushed back or delayed indefinitely during the ongoing pandemic. Below are a few personal stories from people living with arthritis, and how the wait has impacted them.

“I was first referred to have hip replacement surgery for my right hip in September 2020, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic I only ended up seeing a consultant to discuss next steps in February 2021. It has been quite difficult to say the least. Arthritis is a disabling condition which causes immense pain, and joint replacement can really be life-changing. So being told that I have to keep waiting with this excruciating pain, amongst so many others awaiting surgery, was very difficult to bear. The NHS is stretched, and there are a lot of people out there in so much pain. It cannot and should not be ignored. I really hope they do something about the backlog in the coming months, so that people like me can receive much-needed pain relief as soon as possible.” Lucy

“I had a knee arthroscopy booked for March 2020, which was cancelled two days before. I eventually had the operation in August, five months later than originally planned, but the condition of my knee condition definitely worsened and became more painful while I was waiting over the summer. Because of the delay to taking action, my recovery is now very slow and the pain in my knee is still evident.”Pam

“I have osteoarthritis in both knees. I recently did see an orthopaedic consultant who told me I needed a total knee replacement. My surgery was initially scheduled for May 2020, and should have helped relieve the great pain I was feeling. Of course, this was delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus, leaving me to deal with my painful symptoms alone. I understand that the NHS is under tremendous pressure and priority must be given to COVID-19. It would be nice, however, if there was better communication about the delays to elective surgery and at least some indication of the likely timescales for those delays. In the meantime, there’s a lot of information on websites like Arthritis Action’s, around what I can be doing to help self-manage my condition while I wait to hear more.”Mort

“I was supposed to have a knee operation in March 2020, but was told the week before that it had been cancelled. I was expecting the cancellation, as it was happening all around the country due to COVID-19. Since then my knee pain hasn’t gone away, so I am working with the charity Arthritis Action to manage my pain – their programmes on diet, exercise and discussions became vital physically and mentally during these months.”Srikanthi

“I saw various specialists about the arthritis in my knee. While no one denied that my knee would need replacing, they don’t like to do that until you are in your sixties. A total knee replacement will last only 10-15 years, so if you have it done too early, you’ll probably need a second one which won’t work as well. At 57 I was offered cortisone injections and advice on exercise. It felt as though I was being politely nudged out of the door.”Sarah

Read more stories from our members on our Personal Stories page.