A HOSPITAL had to cancel a 75-year-old man’s urgent heart operation because his coronavirus test results failed to arrive in time.

Roy Richardson, from Woodingdean, suffers from atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat. He is in constant danger of having a heart attack and desperately needs surgery.

He was due to have an operation at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton on Wednesday. Patients need to show they do not have the virus before surgery, but Roy’s procedure had to be abandoned because the results of his postal Covid-19 test did not come through until hours after he was meant to go under the knife.

He had ordered the test two weeks in advance to make sure the operation could go ahead. Now, he needs another test – and says “time is running out”.

Roy and his wife of 53 years Linda Richardson, a former nurse, were devastated by what they called the government’s “chaotic” testing programme.

Linda, 72, said: “This has absolutely beaten us down. You don’t need this kind of stress when you have a heart condition. Roy had been taking heart-slowing medication for a month in preparation. He’d had nothing to eat, and nothing to drink before the operation. We were so nervous.”

Linda explained the hospital needed proof of a recent negative test the day before the operation.

She and Roy ordered a testing kit in August, and sent it off in the post on Friday, September 4 to try to ensure the results would arrive on time. But they did not hear back.

The NHS website states “most people get their test results the day after taking the test”. “Some results might take longer, but you should get them in 72 hours,” it adds, but does not specify if this is the case for postal tests, which take longer.

Linda said: “The night before, we were really worried. We called the hospital to say the results hadn’t arrived. We waited and waited, sat by the phone, called up, and checked the computer, but we heard nothing.”

On the morning of the operation, the hospital agreed to delay the 7.30am procedure until 11am. Still, the test results failed to come through, and Roy was offered a 1pm slot.

It was 2.30pm before the results arrived, Linda said.

“We missed the last appointment,” she said. “It felt crushing. We were so upset.”

Roy is now having to wait until September 15. The couple are on tenterhooks, again wondering if they will be able to get hold of the new test results they need on time – and say they may have to travel almost 100 miles to access the nearest available drive-through test.

Linda said the closest centre showing an available slot was in Canterbury.

“It’s like we’re seeing on TV,” she said. “The test centres are inundated. We’d have to set off in the morning or the middle of the night. Roy shouldn’t be driving – he gets dizzy and it’s not safe. But we’re so desperate I don’t know what else to do.

"It’s not something you can leave, with his heart at this rhythm. We’re panicking. I tried again today, but time’s running out – he’s at risk of a heart attack.”

Linda is furious with the government’s testing system, which she says is not fit for purpose.

“The hospital has been brilliant, but they must be having to make so many cancellations,” she said. “These appointments are so precious, and they’re being wasted.

"The government has got to be shown up – it’s chaotic, and it’s not good enough. People are going to die.”

The government was contacted for comment.