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Ops delay leaves girl in agony

Ops delay leaves girl in agony

May 31, 2001 Newcastle Chronicle  by James Meikle and Paul Brown

Hundreds of patients are still waiting for tonsil operations at a Tyneside hospital, five months since they were postponed.

An equipment crisis at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital has created a huge backlog, meaning patients needing the operation face further weeks of delay.

All routine tonsil and adenoid removals for patients across the North East were put on hold in January.

The decision followed concern that CJD, the human form of BSE, could be passed from patient to patient via the medical equipment used in the ops.

Health chiefs were told by the Department of Health to switch to disposable instruments instead of sterilised equipment but a national shortage of supplies meant operations were delayed.

Poorly Vicki McIntyre, 23, has been left in the dark as to when she will have her tonsils removed. She was due to have a tonsillectomy at the Freeman in February but received a letter telling her the op had been cancelled.

She said: "I've been in agony and I'm still on antibiotics. I'm worried I might fail my first year at university because I've missed so much work through being ill."

The Freeman, which carried out more than 1,000 tonsil and adenoid procedures in 1999-2000, has deferred all operations on children.

And adults who were given admission dates prior to the instrumentation issue, were given a choice whether to go-ahead with their operation or wait until disposable instruments are available.

Miss McIntyre has not had any further correspondence from the hospital to schedule a new date for the operation.

In the meantime, she is having to spend more than £30 a month on antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets.

She said: "I'm really angry that I don't even know when I can have the operation. The letter said it had been cancelled.

"If I'd been offered the option I'd have gone ahead and had the operation.

"I'm very achy and tired all the time but I can't afford to be ill. My parents are disabled and I have to work in the TA to pay for college.

"I first went to see a consultant about my tonsils when I was seven but I was told I'd grow out of it. Since I was 18 I've had tonsillitis really badly. Even though I'm on antibiotics I get to a stage where my throat closes up and I can't breathe. There's not much of my tonsils left but when they are inflamed it is very painful."

A statement released by the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages the Freeman, said Vicki's operation would be undertaken within four weeks.

It was stated that the first batch of disposable instruments had been delivered earlier this week and a further batch was expected by the end of today.

The trust said: "The number of potential patients deferred since January 2001 has averaged 70 to 80 a month.

"NHS hospitals follow strict standards and a national code of practice in relation to this particular operation."

The private Nuffield Hospital has been able to perform tonsillectomy operations with disposable equipment since the start of this week.

And a spokesman for Northumbria Health Care Trust which covers North Tyneside, Wansbeck, Hexham and Berwick, said tonsil operations had now been resumed in its hospitals. The tonsils are part of the body's lymph system and carry the highest risk of harbouring CJD in an infected individual.

In February hospitals were told it could take up to three months before the new disposable equipment was available.


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