By Fiona Parker for The Daily Mail
In step: Frank Larmer and Allison Cousins
Dance teacher Frank Larmer is preparing to have a hip replacement in France after his NHS surgeon told him he was too old to have a specialist prosthesis.
The 72-year-old grandfather-of-four, who teaches Argentine tango classes with partner Allison Cousins, 68, in Worthing, West Sussex, began experiencing sharp pains in his right hip 18 months ago.
Soon afterwards he was only able to walk for 100 yards at a time and can now dance for just 15 minutes before needing a rest.
In November last year he was told by a surgeon at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, that his hip joint was extremely worn down but because he was over 70 he would only be eligible for a basic prosthesis.
‘I was told I would be able get around the shops, at home and probably climb the stairs,’ said Mr Larmer. ‘When I asked about whether I would be able to get back to my dancing, he said: “Probably not.”’
He added: ‘I’ve got nothing against the surgeon – he was totally honest with me – but I do feel the over-70s are being penalised.’
Mr Larmer learnt that ceramic-on-ceramic prostheses would offer him the best chance of getting back to dancing, but it would cost up to £13,850 to have one fitted privately.
He offered to pay the £4,000 cost of the prosthesis himself if the health service would cover surgery and rehab, but he was told this was not possible due to NHS policies.
A friend and fellow tango teacher then recommended the Clinique Sainte Isabelle in Abbeville, 70 miles from Calais, which would offer the full procedure, prosthesis and an aftercare physiotherapist for £9,000.
The waiting time was four weeks and Mr Larmer is booked to go to the clinic in the middle of next month.
He is relieved he will be getting the surgery he wants but feels ‘extremely frustrated’ by his experience.
‘I’ve worked all my life,’ he said. ‘I’ve never milked the NHS and now when I need to use it, I can’t.’