HOSPITAL employee Julie Gilmour says all she wants to do is get back to working for the NHS, but a long waiting list means it will be months before she can resume her duties.
Julie, 54, has been waiting for a specialist orthopaedic appointment since December and off work since February. There is meant to be a 12-week waiting time guarantee, but patients in Lothian are having to wait up to 45 weeks for an initial appointment.
Julie, a catering assistant at Herdmanflat Hospital in Haddington, said: “I’m desperate to get back to work. The NHS is really struggling. I’m an NHS employee, which means I’m getting paid for being off sick and waiting for this assessment. Would it not make more sense to get me back to work?
“I’m not saying I should get special treatment, but surely it would benefit everyone if I was back at work rather than getting paid for doing nothing while they try to cover for my absence.”
Julie, who has worked for the NHS for 16 years, suffers from rotator cuff tendonitis in both shoulders. It is a painful condition that means she cannot lift her arm higher than waist level. “I can’t lift anything heavy, I can’t even brush my teeth,” she said.
Julie said she had been having cortisone injections for two years before the condition was diagnosed. She was taken off them because of the side effects, but is now having cortisone again.
“They’re not happy about it, but it’s the only way to control the pain,” she said.
Julie was first put on the waiting list in December and was then referred a second time by her GP in February because her pain was so extreme.
She said: “The doctor put it through as urgent, but I was told they couldn’t do anything to speed it up.”
Julie said she was talking to her union and occupational health to see if she could get some sort of temporary post – “anything to get back to work”.
She said: “I’m on my own and it’s soul destroying just sitting here, waiting and waiting. I’ve looked into going private, but it’s £7,000 and I’ve just not got that sort of money. I suppose I could take out a loan, but there’s a six-month recovery period if I have the operation, so I could not pay anything back.”
Julie is exasperated at the way she and others are being left to wait so long.
She said: “There are plenty people in the same position as me. How can they justify people having to wait almost a year?
“And once I get seen it’s not as if I’m going to get an operation the next week. I will have to join another list.”
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer for acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “I apologise to patients who are waiting longer than they should. We understand that any delay in diagnosis or treatment can be worrying for patients and we aim to provide effective and timely care at all times.
“We are experiencing a high volume of referrals into the orthopaedic service. Each new referral is reviewed by an orthopaedic clinician and booked in order of clinical priority, which means that patients referred as being urgent will be given an earlier appointment.”