More than 30,000 patients at Suffolk and north Essex hospitals have waited longer than 18 weeks for routine treatments, according to latest NHS figures.

Latest statistics for January showed that at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) hospitals, which include Ipswich and Colchester, 47,138 out of 80,402 patients received treatment within the 18 week target time after referral- or 58.6% of the total.

READ MORE: A&E and ambulance waits improve in Suffolk and north Essex

This figure is well below the NHS target of 92% to be seen within the 18 week target time, although slightly better than the national average for January of 58.3%.

East Anglian Daily Times: More than 30,000 patients at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have had to wait 18 weeks or longer for treatment after referralMore than 30,000 patients at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have had to wait 18 weeks or longer for treatment after referral (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

The average waiting time at ESNEFT hospitals was 14.5 weeks, while of the different departments, the trauma and orthopaedic service had the lowest numbers seen within 18 weeks, with 5,309 out of 11,411 patients seen within the target time- or 46.5%.

However, some 3,984 patients had waited 52 weeks or more, while 527 had waits of 78 weeks or longer.

READ MORE: NHS figures show 285 patients waited more than 12 hours at Suffolk hospital

Meanwhile, at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, 18,743 out of 30,300 patients were seen within the 18 week target- or 61.9%.

The referral to treatment time is the length of time that a patient waited from referral to start of treatment, or, if they have not yet started treatment, the length of time that a patient has waited so far.

READ MORE: Ipswich news

ESNEFT deputy chief executive Neill Moloney said the COVID-19 pandemic had 'significantly impacted' waiting times while the trust had also had to cope with 'unprecedented' winter pressures.

He added since February 2020, the number of waiting patients at the trust had only grown 44%, compared to 63.1% nationally.

“We are committed to seeing all our patients as quickly as possible and our teams have been working extremely hard through some challenging circumstances.

READ MORE: Suffolk news

"To reduce the backlog we have increased our capacity and have been running additional clinics and prioritising patients based on their clinical need, which is in line with national guidance for all NHS trusts.

He apologised to anyone who had experienced a delay.

Legal firm Ellisons Solicitors is providing support to patients who believe they may have experienced medical negligence as a result of the delays.

Medical negligence solicitor Mark Stafford-White said: “It is important that patients recognise that they are still entitled to the same levels of safe, timely and effective care that they would have previously expected pre-pandemic.

"Where the level of care does not meet the required standard, there is a real risk that this could impact patient safety and result in preventable harm to patients.”

Nobody from West Suffolk Hospital was available for comment.