HUDDERSFIELD'S health chiefs are to pay for up to 20 more NHS patients to have heart surgery at a private hospital.
They are taking the action because of long queues which have built up to have the operations at Leeds General Infirmary
The move will bring new hope to patients like 74-year-old Mary Smith, from Huddersfield, who has been waiting a year for a double heart bypass.
She says she has been powerless to get a date for admission to the Leeds hospital.
Last year, the NHS footed the bill for 30 heart patients from the Huddersfield and Halifax areas to have private treatment in Sheffield.
Now, Calderdale and Kirklees Health Authority says it will send more people to private hospitals, to ease the queues for surgery at the Leeds hospital, which is the NHS regional centre for heart operations.
Mrs Smith, of Leeds Road, says she feels the NHS is guilty of age discrimination by making her wait 12 months for heart surgery.
She suffers from angina and went on the waiting list at Leeds in October last year.
Mrs Smith said: "We have tried ringing up the LGI, but every time we do we just get the answerphone.
"Once, when they rang back, all we were told was that there was a long waiting list.
"My GP says there is nothing he can do except refer me again."
Calderdale and Kirklees Health Authority chiefs say the number of people they will pay for to have operations at a private hospital is still being finalised. But it will not be less than 14 - and could be up to 20.
A spokeswoman said the waiting list had grown because heart conditions were being picked up earlier.
She added: "Some patients across West Yorkshire, including Huddersfield, have been waiting an unacceptable length of time for heart surgery in Leeds.
"Health authorities, primary care groups and the Leeds hospital trust are currently making arrangements to relieve pressure in Leeds by offering patients the option of being treated in a private hospital by the end of the year at the latest.
"We are hoping that no-one will have been waiting more than 12 months for their heart surgery."
A spokeswoman for Leeds General Infirmary said age had nothing to do with Mrs Smith's wait.
"We treat patients older than Mrs Smith - up to their eighties and nineties.
"We treat patients in order of clinical priorities.
"It is regrettable that non-urgent patients do have to wait a year for heart surgery, due to the tremendous number of people needing heart surgery," she added.