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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 15:45 GMT
Waiting in vain for heart surgery

David Stevens struggles to carry out ordinary tasks
Alan Milburn is promising swifter lifesaving heart surgery - BBC News Online highlights the case of one man who, despite being on the "urgent" waiting list for more than a year, still does not know when his operation will happen.

David Stevens, from Corsham near Bath, survival a major heart attack ten years ago, but a routine check-up in February 1998 worried his GP.

At his local hospital a treadmill test was more revealing: "I lasted 20 seconds," he said.

Even then, it was October 1998 before a further angiogram test was carried out, revealing that he needed a quadruple bypass.

This meant that four key arteries supplying blood to the muscles of the heart were hardened and clogged, and needed replacing urgently.

However, despite being placed on the "urgent" list for surgery at St Thomas' Hospital in London, the operation failed to materialise.

The surgery was first scheduled for the middle of the following year, but was then put back, then put back again.

Move to Southampton

Eventually, Mr Stevens was forced to turn to Southampton General Hospital, asking to join its list.

"I'm moving into the third year since the original first visit to my GP, and I'm sitting here with angina.

"It makes me angry that hospitals and doctors are not being given a fair crack of the whip.

"I'm not criticising any of the doctors - they simply haven't got the resources."

He said that his health had steadily deteriorated while he has been on the waiting list, with his angina symptoms becoming worse and worse.

Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue and breathlessness.

He said he tries to not consider the possibility that the decline may not be entirely corrected by surgery when it does arrive.

"It has put my life on hold," he said, "I try not to think about it, but my poor old wife has to. It affects everything."

Next week he will travel to Southampton to find out how long it will take that hospital to treat him, and hoping that he does not have to join the bottom of the list again.
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