“I don’t want people to think I'm ungrateful, but the pain is overwhelming.”

19 March 2021
Rob at home sat on the sofa.
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In the twelve months since the start of the pandemic, we’ve worked together with people with arthritis to make sure that your voices are Impossible to Ignore.

Through petitions, emails to MPs, and telling your stories, you have ensured that the issues facing people with arthritis are higher on the political agenda than they have ever been.

Rob’s story has been a vital part of our work, and it’s been quite a journey for him over the past year.

Since he shared his experiences of waiting for joint replacement surgery in early 2020, he’s had his first surgery scheduled, then cancelled due to COVID-19, given evidence before a Select Committee of MPs, and had his first operation to replace his right knee in October

And now, he’s speaking out publicly in response to new figures showing that over 4.5 million people are now waiting for treatment in England.

Dealing with delays to surgery

“When I found out I had a date for my surgery, I felt so lucky,” says Rob. “Had I not got involved with working with Versus Arthritis, I may still have been waiting for the first one.”

However, the impact of the second wave of the pandemic on our hospitals has been profound. As a result, Rob is still waiting for word on his second knee replacement, and the pain is having a big impact on his life.

“I don’t want people to think I’m ungrateful, but I don’t feel like I’ve achieved much. The pain in my left knee is overwhelming. I’m not sleeping properly, so I’m tired all the time.”

“People say ‘you seem down, you seem quiet’, because they don’t realise how much pain you’re in.”

Failures in communication have added to the pain of waiting. Rob has been unable to get confirmation of where he is on the waiting list for the surgery he needs, and also hasn’t been able to get information about the lingering pain from surgery he had in October.

“I’ve tried to call my surgeon but have been unable to get through. So you have no way of knowing when you won’t be in pain. It just makes you so anxious and frustrated.”

“I understand how busy it is with COVID, but if we don’t so something it’s going to create a bigger backlog down the line.”

Managing your pain at home

As we continue to push for better support and pain management, as well as a nationwide plan to restart elective surgery, Rob has shared with us some of the things that are helping him get through this difficult time.

“I try to go for a walk every day to keep up my strength, even though it’s painful. The thing that brings me the most relief is a hot soak in the bath. You can just sink into it, relax, and it eases the pain.”

“I also finally got access to Netflix through a friend’s account, and I’ve been binge watching The Crown and other series. It sounds like a small thing, but it allows you to concentrate on something else for a moment. It’s about letting your mind get away from the pain.”

If you are looking for ways to help manage your pain, take a look at our exercise for healthy joints resources. You can also sign up to our Let’s Move With Leon programme and get access to free online exercises specially designed by fitness expert Leon Wormley.

Read our tips on looking after your wellbeing and managing your pain at home during COVID-19.

We’re pushing for change

As we approach the first anniversary of lockdown, we’ve just had a major victory for our Impossible to Ignore campaign. It was announced yesterday that the government has allocated an additional £6.6 billion for the NHS, and they have committed to allocate some of this to tackling the backlog in elective surgery - including joint replacement surgery.

This is a huge achievement, and the power of your voices has made a real difference. However, there is a pressing need for clarity on how much of the funding will be allocated towards tackling waiting times for hip and knee replacements, and how that funding will be used.

The latest data from the NHS shows over 60,000 are waiting more than a year for a joint replacement. This is why we, at Versus Arthritis, are committed to pushing for the change that people waiting for much needed surgery like joint replacements need.

  • We’re working with NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) to shape the principles for recovering services for people with arthritis and MSK conditions through the "Best MSK Health Programme".

The NHS will be publishing a framework about how they plan to tackle waiting lists. This may set out how the £1 billion allocated in last year's Spending Review to reduce waiting times will be allocated.

  • We’re working to ensure that this investment includes a focus on reducing waiting times for joint replacement.
  • We’re working with NHSE/I to help develop a resource that local health services can use to support people with arthritis whilst they are waiting for surgery.

This will set out areas of best practice, including improving communication with patients and signposting to programmes that can help people manage their pain.

Get involved

Rob’s story is a reminder that we have to keep fighting for the change that people with arthritis need, wherever they are in their joint replacement journey.

We need to make sure that arthritis is kept high on the agenda as politicians across the UK work through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the voices of people with arthritis are the most powerful resource we have.

Sign our Impossible to Ignore petition

Join Rob and thousands of others by signing our petition on joint replacement waiting times, and help ensure that the voices of people with arthritis are impossible to ignore.

If you are waiting for joint replacement surgery, and you would be happy to share your story, get in touch by emailing mystory@versusarthritis.org.

We’re here whenever you need us

If you have found yourself in a similar situation to Rob, and need advice or support, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)