Over 5,000 hospital patients waiting a year or more for treatment

Staff on an NHS hospital ward.

The BMA say the NHS is currently experiencing some of the most severe pressures in its 70-year history - Credit: PA

More than 5,000 patients in Suffolk and north Essex have been waiting a year or more for treatment - and nearly 300 have been waiting more than two years, new data reveals.

Latest figures, from March, show 3,089 patients had been waiting more than a year at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), and 2,300 at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals.

Waiting lists are growing - in total, ESNEFT now has 66,618 patients on its list, with WSFT having 25,797 - but overall waiting times are falling. There are fewer patients waiting longer than a year compared to the previous month.

However, there remain 299 people who have been waiting more than two years. Nearly 270 of those are at West Suffolk Hospital, with most relating to orthopaedics.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), the NHS is experiencing some of the most severe pressures in its history.

Alongside the Covid-19 pandemic, the BMA say this is also the result of other mounting pressures, such as chronic understaffing, insufficient funding and poor retention.

WSFT has committed to reduce the amount of people waiting over 104 weeks to zero by the end of June. It is also working towards reducing the amount of people waiting over 98 weeks, in line with NHS planning guidance.

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Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Alex Baldwin, said: "Due to the pandemic, waiting lists have increased and we are doing everything we can to treat patients as quick as possible, prioritising those with the greatest clinical need.

"We continue to work closely with our NHS healthcare partners and the independent sector to increase capacity where possible and we are offering extended clinics as one of the ways to increase the number of patients who can be seen."

Mr Baldwin added: "I want to thank our brilliant staff in our hospitals and in the community for all their hard work throughout this very difficult period."

Neill Moloney, Deputy Chief Executive of ESNEFT, said staff are working hard to reduce the backlog by increasing capacity, while also prioritising patients based on clinical need.

"Our staff are doing everything they can to treat patients on our waiting lists as quickly and safely as possible. The ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means our waiting lists have undoubtedly increased.

This is not unique to our Trust, but we are sorry to anyone experiencing a delay."