A COVE woman has had a sight saving operation done in South Africa - because it was quicker than waiting 18 months on the NHS.

Mrs Dawn Parnell was treated at a hospital near Cape Town within three months of booking the appointment by telephone.

If she had been in South Africa, then she believes the micro-surgery on her cataract would have been done even more quickly - within a month.

The only way she would have received such speedy treatment in this country was by going private.

"I was told I could have the operation within three weeks if I paid between £1800 and £2000," said Mrs Parnell.

Instead her husband John decided to pay £1,140 - £750 for the operation and £390 for the flight - for her to have the treatment in the country of her birth.

She admitted that the total bill was slightly cheaper in her case because she stayed with a friend and, because she is a regular visitor to South Africa, she obtained a discounted flight.

But she still feels it is an attractive option for those stuck on an NHS waiting list. "They could incorporate it as part of a holiday," she said.

Mrs Parnell, of Fleet Road, Cove, said the treatment she received in South Africa was first class. "I was treated like a person rather than a number," she continued.

The pain free operation on her left eye took only 10 minutes and was carried out with an ultra-sound machine

"I went back the next day and was told the treatment had been successful," she said. "I'd been wearing glasses for 16 years, and was told I didn't need them anymore.

"I was so relieved because, prior to the treatment, my sight had been getting steadily worse and I was finding it difficult to read."

She spent the rest of her time in South Africa relaxing with daily swims in a pool and the sea. "I just made sure I didn't put my face in the water," she said.