GIVEN the number of patients York Hospital treats every year, it is inevitable that an appointment occasionally goes astray.

What makes Donald Wilkinson's story much more troubling is the regularity with which he was overlooked.

It was January 2005 when he broke his ankle. He has endured 13 months of agony. During that time, the health service bounced him from one specialist to another - and then ignored him.

The Goole consultant he was referred to refused to take him on, sending him back to York Hospital because the ankle had deteriorated. This suggested a need for some urgency, yet it was five months before he received an MRI scan.

Then he somehow dropped off the system. It is impossible to eradicate this sort of human error, however unfortunate. But it is less forgivable to learn that, when he contacted the hospital, "no one wanted to know".

Mr Wilkinson has spent more than a year in pain and with severely limited mobility. His experience of the NHS is sharply at odds with the vision of Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, who claims no patient need wait for more than six months for treatment. Mr Wilkinson's ankle injury should have been on the mend by now, even given the complications. Instead he has been warned that he could lose his foot. York Hospital has apologised and finally sorted out a new appointment. This must be followed by swift treatment if the hospital is to begin to make amends for a shocking series of oversights.

Updated: 11:05 Tuesday, February 14, 2006