Over 100,000 people are waiting for some form of hospital treatment in Suffolk and North Essex, new data reveals.

The number of patients with incomplete pathways within East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) now stands at 106,702.

This figure has increased by 500 people since the last set of data was published by NHS England in July, with the average waiting time rising for 12 weeks to 12.7.

Some 63.62% of these patients are seen within 18 weeks, with a further 4,741 waiting longer than a year and 631 on the waiting lists over a year and a half.

Broken down by trust, 75,961 are awaiting treatment under ESNEFT with 3,124 patients waiting longer than a year and WSFT have a total of 30,741 people on their waiting lists, with 1,617 waiting longer than a year.

For the available data, Suffolk and North Essex ranked favourably against the national averages for waiting times in the rheumatology and neurology departments.

However, the area ranked a couple of weeks more than the national averages for the plastic surgery, general internal medicine and cardiology departments.

ESNEFT deputy chief executive Neill Moloney said: "Our teams continue to work extremely hard to treat patients on our waiting lists as quickly and safely as possible.

"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic waiting times undoubtedly increased. This is not unique to our trust, but we are sorry to anyone who is experiencing a delay."

Mr Moloney added that recovery action plans are in place and said the trust would be increasing its capacity, running additional clinic lists and prioritising patients based on their clinical need in line with national guidance.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's chief operating officer Nicola Cottington said: "We have focused on treating our longest waiting patients, as well as those with greatest clinical need.

"We have experienced reduced capacity over the last couple of years due to the impact of the pandemic and some planned estates maintenance work in our main hospital."

She added: "However, we are now completing a greater number of treatments since the completion of the estates work in numerous areas of the hospital. I'm really pleased to say that this has contributed to an overall reduction in waiting times."

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter warned that pandemic-related factors are "beyond the control of hospitals," citing surgeries delayed due to the patient testing positive for Covid-19 by way of example.

Sudbury Mercury: Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter.Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter. (Image: Archant)

He added: "However, even in difficult times, the data shows that we remain much better placed in Suffolk compared with many other parts of the country, with the average wait for non-urgent operations still below three months.

"But, more will need to be done to fast track those patients who have been experiencing lengthy waits of many months for care."

Sudbury Mercury: Chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk Andy Yacoub.Chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk Andy Yacoub. (Image: Archant)

Chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk Andy Yacoub described extensive waits for hospital treatment as "inevitable," saying social care and the voluntary and community sector are under-resourced.

"While some may turn to private treatment, we know from our research that this is simply not an option for the majority of people living in Suffolk.," Mr Yacoub said.

He called for better ways to support people while they wait for care, adding: "change can only come from effective collaborative working across all partners and sectors involved across the board".

The health leader also advocated for improved communication with patients and their family carers to provide better information to show that the "NHS is still there to help them".

According to the organisation's recent survey, Suffolk people would like this to include help with pain relief, mental health, isolation, relationships, finances and household chores.

Mr Yacoub added: "This is not just about the management of hospital waiting lists. It is about how integrated care systems can change how they work to help people in a holistic way.

"It is now incumbent on them to work more collaboratively still, if they are to make waiting - as well as the recovery time following treatment - less stressful, less painful, less costly, and less isolating for patients and their families."