Almost 20,000 patients have been left to suffer after waiting months for hospital treatment.

Anyone referred by their doctor for non-urgent consultant-led care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

Brentwood Live:

Shocked - Mike Fieldhouse, spokesman for the Save Southend NHS campaign group

However, NHS England statistics show that 12,002 patients due to be treated at Basildon Hospital had been waiting longer than that at the end of October – 35 per cent of those on the waiting list.

In Southend 7,699 patients – 22 per cent - due to be treated within that time had not been seen.

Both hospitals fell well below the 92 per cent target set by the NHS.

Southend Hospital kept 1,488 patients waiting more than 36 weeks and shockingly, 47 had still not started treatment after a year.

In Basildon 1,789 had waited more than 36 weeks, while 32 were still waiting for treatment after a year.

Mike Fieldhouse, spokesman for the Save Southend NHS campaign group, said: “These figures are quite shocking. It is terrible that so many people in Southend have had such excessive waits for treatment.

“Unfortunately it proves what we have been saying for several years now and demonstrate what a dire situation the NHS is in.

"Despite acknowledging that critically low staffing levels and abysmal retention rates are at the heart of Southend’s problems, NHS management have time and again failed to address the problem in any meaningful way.”

Clare Burns, director of operations, elective care said: “We are working really hard to reduce waiting times and our clinical staff are making sure we are still providing the very best patient care whilst we do this. Our plans to bring clinical services together across mid and south Essex will mean we can improve our services further.”

Meanwhile, Tom Abell, deputy chief executive for Mid and South Essex University Hospital Group, said the figures showing increased pressures on hospitals reflect a national problem.

He said: “Like many NHS organisations we are seeing an increase in demand for our services. The good news is that we are aiming to merge our three hospitals in April to form a new single NHS organisation.

"This means we will be able to combine our resources to provide better care for our patients and improve their overall experience.

"We are committed to delivering a healthcare service to our local community that’s sustainable, fit for today, and one that meet can also meet future demand.”

Lucy Watson, chairwoman of the Patients Association, said: “The rising trend in waiting times is very clearly attributable to the familiar cocktail of sustained NHS underfunding, poor planning and stewarding of the NHS workforce.”

Mr Fieldhouse added: “Problem is we have a growing and ageing population that is being let down when they are most in need. Sadly this puts an enormous strain on our dedicated health workers who do the best that they can to plug the gaps in our NHS caused by years of underfunding and outsourcing to private companies.”

Hospitals are buckling under growing demand for beds

SOUTH Essex hospitals treated 850 extra patients every week compared to five years ago, latest figures have revealed.

Almost 700 extra patients were admitted to Basildon Hospital each week and medics treated more than 150 extra patients at Southend than they would have in 2015.

Health experts say there is an “urgent need” for more staff to address a surge in demand in the NHS, driven in part by the increasing number of people living with complex long-term conditions.

NHS Digital data shows 118,145 patients were admitted to hospital at the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2018- 19.

That was 34,949 more than during 2014-15 – the equivalent of 672 extra patients every week.

A&E departments have come increasingly under strain in recent years.

The biggest increase at Basildon was among emergency cases, which rose by 80 per cent over the five-year period.

The figures show 105,705 patients were admitted to hospital, 8,009 more than during 2014-15.

This is the equivalent of 154 extra patients every week.

Mike Quinn, director of operations for emergency and unscheduled care at Southend Hospital, said: “The NHS as a whole is facing ever higher demand for its services.

"Increasing number of patients are admitted to hospitals but this is not unique to Southend.

“We are already working closely with social care, GPs, community and district nurses to treat more patients in their own homes.”