Something very interesting happened before Christmas.. I got a text from the NHS telling me that if I was unhappy with the length of time I’d been on a waiting list, I could elect to travel outside of Essex for treatment. There was a link to a website, and it was all genuine and above board – definitely not a scam. I was a little puzzled by this, but assumed it was a generic text.. Seems not, but more on that later…

I suppose before I go much further I should add a little context to my ‘journey’ with my back troubles – I had an X-Ray back in March 2019 – this was on my hip. I was having trouble walking, and the doctor decided it was potentially a hip issue – the x-ray was fine, and I got physio on my legs because I had ‘weak leg muscles’. Nothing much happened in 2020, for obvious reasons, but my pain and occasional spells of not being able to walk properly persisted. After countless GP visits, and various kinds of (mis)diagnosis. It was finally in August 2021 that my Doctor referred me for an ‘Urgent’ MRI on my back – the appointment was set for the end of October 2021. I had the MRI, and it took around six weeks to get the results, my GP wasn’t sent a copy of the scan – just a report that said there was ‘nerve root impingement’ (or similar).

I was then essentially given a wide range of tablets, to manage the pain, there was some discussion of potential surgery, but I got the feeling that it wasn’t anything crucial.

I was wrong.

On Monday 16th August 2022, everything went wrong – I was just pottering around the house, and noticed the loo roll in the bathroom needed topping up. I bent down, and, well, my back just ‘went’. This wasn’t a twinge, or a tweak.. It felt like every nerve in my body was on fire. I managed to find my phone and asked Vicki to come home from work ASAP. By the time she was home, there was no kind of relief to the pain, it was worse.. I could feel numbness and tingling in my legs, and groin. We rang the NHS 111 service, and because of the numbness and tingling, and my extensive history of back issues, it was deemed very urgent. They passed it to 999 as a high priority.

After about two hours of waiting, and a LOT of chasing – the ambulance finally came. They actually were some sort of ‘private’ ambulance called in to help ease the backlog. I was given gas and air and taken to Colchester Hospital. We arrived late afternoon, and the ambulance crew had to leave for another job, so had to take their gas and air away with them. We were left for hours in the corridor, just in a queue of beds, waiting.. I cannot describe the pain that was coursing through my body – it made me scream, and cry. Eventually around 2 or 3am, I was finally seen and admitted to the ward, waking all the existing patients as they moved me from the trolley to my bed, in screaming agony..

I stayed in hospital for several days – essentially, once I was able to get out of bed, and walk to the toilet (with crutches or a frame), I was deemed fit enough to leave. In hindsight, I should have fought more and not left without getting some actual answers, a new MRI scan (remember the last one I had was nearly a year old by this point!).. But no, they wanted me up and out.

So, I came home, with a leaflet about calling a spinal team, and more prescription drugs. I called the number I was given – it was old, and no longer working. After a lot of ringing around, I finally got a call back from the spinal team at Broomfield Hospital. I think my pain, and stress was very clear to the nurse I spoke to, and she managed to get me a call with a spinal surgeon. He spoke to me on the phone for about 5-10 minutes, and decided that I needed a nerve root block injection. Remember this was a phone call, not an examination, and no one had seen the damage to my spine since the now year old MRI.

The sound of some spicy drugs directly into my spine that should eliminate the pain sounded delightful – by this point I was struggling to walk, and had actually started looking at applying for a Blue Badge (disabled badge to those not in the UK). They’d had some kind of cancellation, so I was able to get in with a few weeks wait. I had to go to Broomfield Hospital for a quick pre-op with a nurse a few days before I was due to have the nerve root block. The injection day rolled round, and the NHS spinal surgeon came into my room and spoke to me for about 5 minutes – I waited, and waited, and several hours later. I was taken in for my injection and then discharged that evening.

I was told the results might not be immediate, I woke up the next day feeling pretty pain free and chipper – that quickly subsided – the pain very much returned a few hours later. I had a follow up two weeks later, I told them that it hadn’t helped, and I was still in agony. I was told that it can take up to four weeks for the injection to work, it felt like I was being fobbed off with lies..

That is where my NHS journey with my back issues came to an end.. thankfully.. But apparently not, according to them.

Thankfully due to a change of personal circumstances, in late October 2022 I saw a private surgeon, he watched how I moved, how I walked, and was alarmed. He got me in for an MRI less than a week later, and at the beginning of November 2022 he told me I needed surgery straightaway, it couldn’t wait. He told me that a nerve root block injection wouldn’t have helped with my issue, and was shocked it was even attempted.

He even told me to photograph the MRI so that if I needed an ambulance again before my surgery, I could show it to the hospital and they could see just how precarious things were. I spent the next few weeks doing VERY little, knowing that one false move could change my life forever. In late November 2022 I had my surgery, the following afternoon, I could walk. A week later, most of my pain was gone. I’ve been fine since.

However, despite my surgery details being passed back to my GP, and my pain medication not ordered since the end of 2022, something happened at the start of February (just before we went on holiday). I had a letter for another telephone consultation with the original NHS spinal surgeon (the one who performed the pointless nerve root block injection). This is due to take place on the 8th March.


There’s clearly been some sort of admin mess up, where the news of my surgery hasn’t filtered down from my GP to Broomfield Hospital. But my god.. there is actually an alternative world where I *DIDN’T* have the surgery in November 2022, and I’m STILL waiting for a TELEPHONE APPOINTMENT in 2024. To make things wilder, between me cancelling that appointment, I received two more letters from them. One of them told me that they were cancelling my appointment and to wait for another, and the other told me I’d be having a telephone call on the 13th March instead.

It’s utter bloody madness that I could have been waiting so long for this – remember, this story started YEARS ago, and it was only in early 2019 that my pain was taken seriously enough for an x-ray. Which then followed a misdiagnosis, and years of pain, and it’s shocking to think, I could still be in that pain. People in a similar position to me will STILL be in that pain, or their pain may have ended with one false move, and become incapacitated from the waist down before they were seen as ‘urgent’.

I know, that this isn’t a fault of all the hardworking people at the coal face in the NHS. This is YEARS of cost-cutting, mismanagement and austerity given to us by the government. I am SO thankful I was in the position to get this sorted, in essentially a month privately, than have to be waiting, years later for a bloody TELEPHONE appointment. How the hell can you diagnose someone with a splurged disc in their back, crushing their nerves over the phone?! It makes me so angry that our wonderful health service has been reduced to this…

One thought on “Do I STILL need surgery on my back? How the NHS has failed me

  1. Shaun says:

    My brother sent me this article and I (quite literally) feel your pain. I’m in a similar situation although my symptoms are a little different to yours, but the NHS is no longer fit for purpose. It’s just a political football. Unfortunately, we have very little choice in this country. I’m glad you’re better, though.

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