One week before Robert Stone was due to go into hospital for a long-awaited knee replacement in April this year, he received a phone call from a nurse.

The procedure could not go ahead.

A pre-op echocardiogram (ECG) had detected an irregular heartbeat and they wanted to do further checks before proceeding with surgery.

The 82-year widower had been on the waiting list since February 2020. He was devastated.

READ MORE: What's really going on behind the Scotland-England waiting list divide? 

“He phoned me straight away and I could hardly make out a word he was saying because he was roaring and greeting,” said his daughter, Carol Murray.

“Eventually I got it out of him that it was cancelled, and he just said: 'I can't go on like this, I can't live in this pain, I don't want to be here'.

“Who wants to hear that from their father? It was really upsetting.”

The Herald: Carol Murray and her father, Robert Stone, pictured together at his home in ArrocharCarol Murray and her father, Robert Stone, pictured together at his home in Arrochar (Image: Gordon Terris/Herald&Times)

More than eight weeks on, Mr Stone, from Arrochar, is still waiting for an appointment for a follow-up ECG.

The family has been told that it can take up to 14 weeks.

Only then can his knee operation be rescheduled - although they have also been informed that his surgeon will be on holiday for the whole of July.

Mrs Murray said: "We're hopeful it'll be done by the end of the year, but Dad sometimes gets really down and frustrated.

“He’ll say: 'I think they just want me to pop my clogs so that they don't have to do it'.”

READ MORE: What are the consequences of waiting list backlogs in the NHS?

Together with his wife, Mary - who passed away in 2011, just weeks after celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary – Mr Stone raised seven children and fostered an eighth.

He worked for the Ministry of Defence until his retirement, but continued working as a bus and taxi driver for local schoolchildren right up until his knee gave way when he was nearly 79.

An X-ray revealed that the cartilage had worn away and he was referred for orthopaedic surgery, only for the Covid pandemic to put everything on hold.

The Herald: More than three years after he was referred for surgery, Mr Stone still has no date for his knee replacementMore than three years after he was referred for surgery, Mr Stone still has no date for his knee replacement (Image: Gordon Terris/Herald&Times)

His children stepped in as carers, preparing meals and adapting his three-bed home with a walk-in shower.

They provided him with plastic bottles to urinate in during the night so that he didn’t have to struggle downstairs to the toilet.

When that became too much, they moved his bed into the ground floor dining room.

READ MORE: Number paying for private hip and knee ops up three-fold

“As the years have gone on, it's become progressively worse,” said Mrs Murray, who works in a residential care home for the elderly.

“He can't even get to the toilet from here [in the living room] so he now wears continence products.

“He’s had falls. He’s ended up in hospital. He spent four hours stuck in a chair once because there was no one here to help him out.

“You just lose your dignity. In my eyes he's just been treated like a dog - I see him demising before my eyes."

Mr Stone added: “To be truthful, I work on the hope that someday I'll just keel over and that'll be it all done."

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman and Mr Stone's MSP, said his case was "truly heartbreaking".

She added: "No-one should be left to suffer while their loved ones helplessly watch them struggle.

"That is sadly the reality for many people across Scotland who have been failed by the SNP.

"Humza Yousaf is quick to draw comparisons with England when it suits and he is keen to blame Covid at every opportunity.

"However the truth here is that there are more people waiting on surgery and the backlog is far worse in Scotland than in England.”

The Scottish Government says it is "committed to eradicating long waits".