As one of the thousands of people waiting for a hip replacement, I’d like to highlight some of the consequences of longer waiting lists (NHS axes key 18-week target for operations, 31 March). I am 66 and until last June was fit and active. I have reached 19 weeks on the waiting list and am hoping to get notified of a cancellation any day. I have had to give up a range of volunteering activities and also my fitness classes. The pain, despite medication, prevents me from getting out much and increases social isolation. I fear that even after my operation I will be out of the habit of being active and it will take a lot of willpower to get back to how I was.
Longer waiting lists will lead to us “active older people” being unable to undertake community volunteering. Has the cost of this ever been factored in? The impact will be exacerbated by the rising retirement age. Younger retired people will disappear from the ranks of volunteers. Many people delay seeing their GP until pain levels are intolerable. Those in the know will go early and pressurise GPs for referral for orthopaedic assessment, to get into the system. The local waiting list is based on time, not on need. The government needs to consider more sophisticated measures of need for elective surgery and to take into account the wider impact on society of longer waiting lists.
I feel lucky that a new hip is even possible. Had I lived in my grandparents’ time this would be a life sentence of pain. I would be willing to pay more tax to fund the NHS and social care. Time for government to grasp that nettle.
• In addition to the consequences of later retirement covered in Amelia Hill’s splendid piece (A world without retirement, 29 March), what about the holes currently filled by volunteers in a range of services? In my borough, Haringey, the parks department has only skeleton staff. Our unique nature reserve, Queen’s Wood, is looked after entirely by volunteers. Local parks and green corners are also looked after by an army of volunteers. How about the local food bank and soup kitchen? They are volunteer-run. And in many boroughs, library opening hours are maintained only because of volunteers. I could go on.
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