The backlogs of patients waiting two years or more for NHS treatment have been virtually cleared in Suffolk and north Essex.

At the start of January, 2,988 patients in the east of England had been waiting for two years or more for scans, checks, surgical procedures and other routine treatment, but by the end of July only four patients were still waiting.

In Suffolk, both West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) have eliminated their two-year waits through innovation from NHS staff, as well as a collaborative and effective mutual aid systems.

ESNEFT, which runs Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, has implemented pioneering innovation to support its recovery.

This includes a new prostate shrinking treatment which is allowing patients to get home quicker compared to more invasive techniques, freeing up bed space at the trust.

The West Suffolk trust, which runs West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, is running extended theatre lists, including at weekends and offering digital appointments where appropriate.

The two-year waits had built up during the Covid-19 pandemic when much routine treatment had been cancelled and the reduction in numbers had occurred in spite of the continuing problems presented by the virus and record attendances at Accident and Emergency departments.

Dr Melanie Iles, NHS East of England’s acting medical director, said: “The first milestone in the Elective Recovery Plan has been met in the east of England thanks to the outstanding work by dedicated NHS staff.

“Across our region, teams have turned their focus to supporting our longest waiting patients and changed the way we deliver care, using first-of-its-kind technology like robot surgery and collaborative working with neighbouring trusts to offer patients the opportunity to be transferred elsewhere and get the care they need as quickly as possible.”

The NHS will now focus on 18 months and longer waits by April 2023, prioritising the longest waiting patients and those with the greatest clinical need.