RETIRED RAF officer Gary Edwards is back flying high after he managed to fit knee surgery around work contracts without having to pay for private medical care.

The former deputy commander of RAF Lyneham, who was made an OBE in recognition of his leadership at the Wiltshire base during the Iraq war, said: "I had a specific window of opportunity for surgery between work contracts. I wanted to have had my surgery and be recovered by the time my new contract started this autumn, so I took all my notes to my GP who agreed I needed the surgery and accepted my request of where I wanted to be treated.

"After leaving the RAF, I spent some time as a senior manager in the NHS and I was aware of my right to choose where I received treatment. I would encourage others to do the same if they have the opportunity.”

Mr Edwards, 58, from Royal Wootton Bassett had his initial assessment at the NHS Treatment Centre in Devizes and then his operation at sister hospital Emerson’s Green in Bristol.

He has spoken about his experiences of knee replacement to his left leg to coincide with National Arthritis Day which falls today (Oct 12).

He said: "Effectively I benefitted from two Care UK hospitals"

He started to experience problems with both his knees in around 2000. The situation grew gradually worse and in 2012 he had his right knee replaced. He had the option to have both knees replaced at the same time but decided against this because he was concerned about it being harder to recover quickly.

However, with an operational right knee the problems with his left knee decreased as his new knee was able to compensate for it. Over time though, the pain in his left knee increased and spread to his hip, resulting in lost sleep, a limp and the inability to do a wide range of physical activities.

Within nine weeks of the appointment with his GP, Gary had had his knee replaced. He commented: “I met with the consultant orthopaedic surgeon and the anaesthetist before the operation, and both again, twice afterwards, either during the planned twice-daily ward rounds or at other times. I always felt that all of the staff had sufficient time to ensure that my treatment and recovery was as good as it could be. Post-operatively, the nursing and physio support was excellent, the staff friendly, professional, and attentive. I couldn't fault it.”

"I chose a Care UK hospital because excellent CQC ratings and shorter waiting times – I was not disappointed. Because Emerson’s Green only does planned surgery, I also knew my operation wouldn’t be postponed due to other priorities.”