A DAUGHTER claims her elderly mother has had to wait seven months for knee replacement operations because “foolish tax rules” put surgeons off working overtime.

Nicola Justice says her 81-year-old mother has been immobilised by constant joint pain and bouts of depression because waiting lists at Broomfield Hospital are too long.

Her mother is from Great Leighs and does not want to be named, but Nicola spoke to the Times about her ordeal.

She said: “She has rheumatoid and osteoarthritis in both legs, arms and hands.

“In January she was put on the waiting list at Broomfield Hospital for a knee replacement.

“She requires both knees to be replaced. At that time, she was able to walk with a stick and although in pain was able to maintain her independence.

“Over the past seven months of waiting, I have watched her become more immobile and in constant pain.

“She now is becoming quite depressed because of the increased pain and her inability to get out of the house to enjoy life as she did before.”

Nicola continued: “I find it appalling that an elderly person is expected to wait an indefinite period of time in increasing pain because the hospital facilities have not been able to expand in line with the increasing population in the area.”

Nicola stressed that neither she nor her mother blame staff at the hospital and claimed the problem is because tax rules put surgeons off working overtime.

She said: “The annual allowance is the amount of money that can be put into a pension each year before a tax charge is levied.

“If a surgeon were to do extra hours to try and clear waiting lists, they would receive extra pay and therefore more would be put into their pension fund.

“Because the amount allowed into the pension fund has been lowered for the past few years, this extra pension contribution pushes them over the annual allowance limit and they find that by doing the overtime they are actually worse off financially because of a large annual allowance tax bill, so of course it would not be sensible for them to do the extra work.”

She added: “It seems to be the lack of investment in the hospital to match the growth in population and foolish tax rules that are at fault.”

A spokesman for NHS Mid and South Essex University Hospitals Group said: “We are making changes to our services to help to reduce waiting times for knee replacements.

“As we work towards a merger with Southend and Basildon hospital trusts we are re-organising services so we can improve patient care and cut waits.

"As part of the first phase of those changes, Braintree Community Hospital will become a centre of excellence for planned orthopaedic surgery, and patients will be able to choose to have their operations there.

“We would encourage the patient to get in touch with our Patient Advice and Liaison Service so we can look into this issue.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We are taking swift action nationally and last week announced a new, more flexible consultation offer that will allow senior clinicians to manage their pensions and take on extra shifts, reducing waiting times without fear of unexpected tax bills.”

The spokesman added: “Last week we announced new £1.8billion funding for world class NHS facilities on top of an extra £33.9billion a year by 2023/24, which will boost the number of planned procedures and reduce waiting lists.”