Why you shouldn’t have to cope with hip and knee pain during the pandemic
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Getting back to your active self as quickly as possible can make all the difference to your quality of life after suffering from hip and knee problems.
The Yorkshire Hip and Knee Group is keen to emphasise that patients shouldn’t have to suffer pain and debilitation and that for many people there is an alternative choice.
Highly experienced, consultant orthopaedic hip and knee surgeons James Hahnel, Richard Grogan and Chris Brew work collaboratively as a group across multiple private hospitals.
Their surgical work includes key hole surgery to the knee, hip resurfacing (The 'Andy Murray Hip') and robotic surgery.
“Within the private sector, most consultants tend to work alone. The success of the Yorkshire Hip and Knee Group is that we are able to work together as a group of surgeons and share best practice," James explains.
“Working collaboratively as a group ensures that we are able to deliver excellent outcomes for our patients, whilst also providing that personal touch to everyone under our care.”
Is private surgery better than NHS?
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Those with access to private healthcare, either through private medical insurance or self-funding, are often able to have a consultation within days and an operation within weeks, the surgeons explain.
“Within the NHS in 2020, across the whole of Yorkshire and Humber, we were only able to carry out 46 per cent of the hip replacements we would normally expect to do and 37 per cent of the knee replacements,” says Richard.
“That means there is a deficit of 54 per cent of hips and 63 per cent of knees. Even if we were back at full capacity in the NHS – and we are not – or even assuming the NHS could get up to 110 per cent, it will take five years or more to clear the backlog.”
Patients will often choose to have surgery privately, not just because they can receive their treatment in a timely manner, but because they will enjoy an improved overall experience.
"Whether it’s a prompt pre-operative consultation with plenty of time set aside to listen to any problems, or improved service during their inpatient stay and priority access to post-operative care, going private has numerous benefits," explains Chris.
“Very few patients are getting through at all on the NHS at the moment,” adds James.
“Many people are having problems accessing their GPs for healthcare; once they have done so, they can be further delayed by the backlog of the musculoskeletal triage service.
“Patients are finding it is months and months before they get to see a consultant and then they have to wait a significant amount of time before there is any proposition of an operation.”
When is the best time to have a hip or knee replacement?
Patients who are physically fitter prior to hip or knee surgery are shown to have better functional outcomes following surgery. The team agrees that as result of the COVID pandemic, there has been an increasing number of patients coming to clinics struggling to walk. They have also noticed a huge increase in the use of wheelchairs and crutches.
A common myth is that patients are too young to benefit from joint replacement surgery. However, data shows that joint replacements are lasting longer than ever, with only 6 per cent of patients having knee replacement needing revision surgery and 8 per cent of hip replacements needing revision by 15 years (2020 National Joint Registry 27th Annual Report).
“Many are not even getting the best physiotherapy while they wait because they are not able to have it face to face at the moment," says James.
“It then takes these people longer to rehabilitate because we know that if you are in good physical condition before your operation you tend to have a better outcome.”
How long does it take to recover from hip or knee surgery?
Recovery times vary, Richard explains, depending on the severity of the arthritis by the time of the intervention.
“If someone has lost range of movement, then they don’t stand as good a chance of recovering as well and they may be at risk of severe deformity,” he says.
“Patients with some arthritis about the knee go on to become excessively bow legged or knock kneed and that can compromise the ligaments.
“This can change the type of knee replacement that you need and, again, can prolong recovery and compromise end results.”
Not having surgery when they need it can also cause patients to put on weight through lack of exercise.
“This might mean some go on to develop cardiac or respiratory problems; in some cases, we see this has resulted in further delays to surgery while these other health issues are treated.”
Regaining quality of life
Private surgery costs vary but those who are self-funding will often find many private hospitals are able to arrange suitable payment plans.
Deciding to go ahead outside the NHS system is usually about regaining quality of life, according to the surgeons.
“Increasingly people are not just content with a healthy retirement, they want an active retirement,” James observes.
“Those retiring at 65 want to enjoy at least 10 or 15 more years of good physical health where they can go walking, cycling, continue playing sport and perhaps go on holiday.
"Earlier surgery, ensures patients are not losing a year or two of their active lifestyle, but are instead able to make the most of every opportunity that retirement offers."
Proud of their excellent results, the surgeons advise patients to “shop about” as they would for a property, a car or another large purchase.
“Read about the surgeons, find out how many operations they complete a year and what their results are like,” stresses Richard.
“We need to encourage people to look around more and talk to others they know who have had similar operations.
“At the Yorkshire Hip and Knee Group, a lot of patients come to us via word of mouth because they have heard about what we can achieve.”
For more information visit yorkshirehipandknee.com or call 0113 213 6804 or 01274 352014.