A CAMBERLEY pensioner flew home from Cyprus last week with a new hip - and a bottle of wine from the surgeon who carried out the operation.

Mrs Mary Gulliford travelled to the sunshine island for the hip op after being told she faced at least an 18-month wait at Frimley Park Hospital.

Within three months of an initial examination in Cyprus, she was operated on at a hospital in Paphos and then spent a month recuperating at a nearby hotel.

To her surprise she didn't have to return to the hospital for a check up. Instead the surgeon who performed the operation visited her three times at the hotel.

"I have no regrets about going to Cyprus for the operation," said 73-year-old Mrs Gulliford, who made the trip with her husband, Ivan.

"The treatment I received was excellent, and the doctors and senior nurses were superb."

Since returning home she has been making steady progress and is able to go shopping, something she couldn't do prior to the operation.

"I was in such agony I couldn't face waiting 18 months to have the operation done here," said Mrs Gulliford, who was a nurse at Frimley Park Hospital when it was opened by the then Health Minister Barbara Castle in 1974.

And she and her husband discovered it was cheaper to go to Cyprus than to pay out over £8000 to have the operation done privately in this country.

"We saved about £2000 even after paying for the operation, the flight and the five weeks in a hotel," said Mr Gulliford, 74, a retired army major.

While his wife was recuperating in the hotel they even recruited another "customer" for the surgeon.

A woman holidaymaker who, by sheer coincidence, lives in Cove and was booked in for a replacement knee operation at Frimley Park Hospital, will now have her operation done in Paphos.

As for the bottle of wine, the surgeon gave the Gullifords a bottle of his 2000 vintage red after they started chatting to him about his vineyard.

Picture: The NHS let her down, but a Cyprus hospital came up trumps for retired nurse Mary Gulliford, who is enjoying life with a new hip. She is pictured with her husband Ivan and a bottle of wine presented to them by the surgeon,sourced from his vineyard. Picture: Mike Hawley.