A PATIENT has lodged a formal complaint against the Friarage Hospital after surgeons repeatedly failed to diagnose an infection caught during an operation there four years ago.

Bob Bell, 57, from Crakehall, near Bedale, has suffered severe recurring pain in his lower back, thigh and groin since his hip replacement at the Northallerton hospital in December 2000.

Despite regular visits to the hospital for four years, Mr Bell was told the pain was still being caused by the healing process.

The truth was only uncovered in March when a surgeon diagnosed an infection which he believed had probably been in the replacement joint during the operation.

The persistent pain causes Mr Bell to walk lopsided and as a result he has trapped a nerve in the back of his neck, leading to further pain, dizzy spells and time off from his job as a caravan engineer for Barrons Outdoors in Darlington.

Mr Bell has been told he will need another operation but could expect to wait until September for a consultation and then another eight months for the procedure to replace the infected joint with a new one.

He will then spend ten days in traction and need up to four months off work to recover.

He said: "This has gone on for too long, and there have been too many sleepless nights. I have been in pain for years, and it has caused a lot of stress for me and my wife. I am not looking to jump the operation queue or for compensation, I just want this sorted out so I can get back to my life."

Mr Bell has made a formal complaint and contacted the Patient Advisory Liaison Service and his MP, Anne McIntosh, who is taking up the complaint.

"In any operation there can be complications but the operations are supposed to improve quality of life," she said. "The Friarage has a good track record in that respect.

"However, if there has been an unacceptable delay and a patient has suffered, the situation will be investigated fully."

A spokeswoman for the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We are sorry if the patient feels upset. We have received a formal complaint from him and will be looking into this. If Mr Bell would like to discuss his treatment further we would be happy to talk or meet him in the meantime."