Waiting times in Suffolk hospitals remain high as Omicron threat approaches

Ipswich Hospital/Colchester Hospital/West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: Archant

Ipswich Hospital/Colchester Hospital/West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The most recent data for hospital waiting times in Suffolk show a slight improvement compared to this time last year, but a large gap remains in comparison to before the pandemic.

Both East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust saw their average waiting time decrease and the number of people treated within 18 weeks increase in October 2021 compared to October 2020.

Although the number of Incomplete pathways, patients waiting to start treatment, did increase for both trusts.

ESNEFT had 63,555 patients waiting for treatment, up from 56,253 last year, WSFT saw an increase of just under 4,000 to 24,137.

Despite the rising number of patients waiting, those who were seen almost a week quicker than they were last year, 11.3 and 12 weeks respectively, though this figure is still some way behind the 2019 figure which was less than nine weeks for both trusts.

The waiting time in WSFT for 8% of patients still remains over a year at 56.5 weeks, 8% of patients at ESNEFT were waiting for 38.4 weeks, while improved from last year the figures from 2019 were around 25 weeks.

A WSFT spokesperson said: “We are continuing to do everything we can to treat patients as quickly as possible.

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“We are working with our NHS healthcare partners and the independent sector to increase capacity where possible, using the additional funding awarded across Suffolk and north east Essex to tackle waiting lists.”

Neill Moloney is acting chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.

He said: “Our teams have been doing everything they can to tackle our waiting lists and treat patients as quickly and as safely as possible, but we must be realistic as we go into what’s likely to be a challenging winter.

“We are determined to keep all our services going, but as with all NHS trusts up and down the country, we are keeping our routine and elective surgery under close and regular review at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals so we can safely care for both our Covid-19 patients and our patients who need emergency and urgent care. Patient safety will always be our top priority.”