A PENSIONER who has waited an agonizing 13 months for treatment to a broken ankle fears the delays could lead to him losing his foot.

York Hospital bosses have apologised for recent delays in treating retired farmer Donald Wilkinson, which they said were caused by an error in failing to follow up a scan.

Within hours of the Evening Press raising his plight with York Hospitals NHS Trust, he had been given an urgent appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon this Thursday to assess his condition and "discuss the best way forward for his treatment."

But a spokesman revealed he would then still have to go on a waiting list for any surgery needed, although he would not be at the back of the queue.

Today Mr Wilkinson criticised the way his case had been handled by the hospital, saying: "It's unbelievable. How can it take this long to treat a broken ankle?

"I've been taking painkillers like Smarties for the past year. It absolutely stinks."

The Trust said surgery had initially been due to take place on September 27 last year, but was postponed after Mr Wilkinson queried the nature of the procedure.

"Following this, an MRI scan was carried out but it appears there was then an error and the results of this were not followed up," said the spokesman.

"We would like to apologise to Mr Wilkinson for the delay caused by this and assure him we are doing everything we can to give him the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible."

Mr Wilkinson, 73, of Everingham, near Pocklington, said he had been told by the hospital that he had been "forgotten about."

He asked: "How the hell can they forget about somebody?"

Mr Wilkinson said his ankle bones had been fused 20 years ago because of arthritis, but he had still been able to dance, ride and even work with horses until he broke the ankle in January last year after catching his foot against the bottom of a sofa.

He went to Accident and Emergency at York Hospital, where he was seen by four doctors and given two X-rays before the ankle was put in a pot.

He said he returned to the hospital in March, when he was told by a doctor that he needed a procedure to straighten the ankle, involving inserting a "nail" up the inside of his leg from the heel, and the pot was then removed. "I have a high pain threshold but it was so bad I nearly fainted."

He expected the treatment within a month or two, but heard nothing until he was given an opportunity in June to go to Goole Hospital. However, he claimed that the consultant there said the condition had deteriorated since the X-rays were done. The consultant refused to take the case on and sent Mr Wilkinson back to York.

He claims a York surgeon warned him in September that the condition had worsened, and urged him to prepare for the loss of his foot.

He said was sent for a scan, which was eventually done eight weeks later in November, but had heard nothing since then, and claimed that when he tried to ring to find out what was going on, "no one wanted to know."

:: Donald Wilkinson's diary of agony

January 2005: Mr Wilkinson breaks ankle on bottom of sofa

January 2005: York doctors put his ankle in pot

March 2005: Doctors say treatment needed involving inserting of nail

June 2005: He is referred to a Goole specialist, who refuses to treat him

September 2005: York doctor warns Mr Wilkinson to prepare for loss of his foot

November 2005: Mr WIlkinson undergoes MRI scan

February 2006: Mr Wilkinson tells Evening Press of long wait. Hospital offers him urgent appointment

:: Waiting list claims ring hollow

DONALD Wilkinson said he contacted the Evening Press after Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt had claimed that no patient now had to wait more than six months for treatment on the NHS.

The Health Secretary said recently that by March 2003, the 30,000 people who had previously been waiting longer than 12 months had been reduced to around 100. By last March, no one was waiting longer than nine months for treatment.

"Now that maximum wait is down to six months - with the average wait for treatment being eight weeks," she said.

"The NHS has eradicated long waits and is now delivering the fastest ever access to NHS treatment. This is dramatic and real progress."

Updated: 15:05 Tuesday, February 14, 2006