Almost 350 people have been waiting longer than 18 months for routine hospital treatment at Suffolk and north Essex hospitals, it has emerged.

Figures released by NHS England have revealed the number of patients on the long-term waiting list for each NHS trust up to the end of March 2023.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which manages Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, had 262 patients waiting longer than a year and a half for treatment – the 10th highest number in England.

Of these 262 patients, 52% were not waiting for reasons of choice or complexity or cornea shortage.

However, 31% of the total were waiting out of choice.

East Anglian Daily Times: West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St EdmundsWest Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds (Image: Newsquest)

At West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, there were 73 patients waiting more than 18 months for routine treatment – with 61% not waiting out of choice.

A total of 21% of the hospital's patients had opted to wait for their treatment.

This meant there were 335 patients between ESNEFT and West Suffolk Hospital who had been waiting longer than 18 months.

The data comes as official figures revealed the government has missed a key target of eliminating 18-month waits for planned NHS care such as knee and hip replacements.

Karen Lough, director of elective care at ESNEFT, said the Covid pandemic, "unprecedented pressures" over winter and strikes had all contributed to the waits, but said the 18-month waiting figure was being brought down.

She added: "Teams are working incredibly hard to reduce waiting times for operations and the numbers of patients waiting 78 weeks or longer has significantly fallen over the past year. 

"It is a priority for us to make sure those with longer waits are seen at the earliest opportunity and we are finding ways to run additional clinics and surgery lists."

Matt Keeling, deputy chief operating officer for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, added: "We have made significant progress in reducing the number of long-waiting patients built up during the Covid pandemic, made possible through the focus and dedication of clinical and administrative teams.

"We are committed to further reducing this backlog as quickly as we can, and I apologise to every patient who experiences a delay to their care."