COVID-19 has seen the number of patients waiting for hospital treatment in south Essex rise to more than 50,000 - with some waiting two years.

A Pitsea GP has said her heart goes out to people waiting, but urged patients to remember the NHS has battled a global pandemic.

During the pandemic hospitals ceased non-urgent treatment to focus on priority surgery, leaving mid and south Essex hospitals seeing 63 per cent of patients within 18 weeks against a target of 85 per cent.

The hospitals have resumed seeing some non-urgent patients but face an uphill battle to tackle the backlog.

Doctor Joanne Copeland, practice manager at Rose Villa Surgery, on Rectory Park Drive, said: “I can’t fault the cancer care.

“The two week wait they are seen and dealt with in the time frame.

“If you have back injuries and you have to wait it is a concern because they are suffering all this time.

“They shouldn’t have to wait but we have just come out of a pandemic. My heart does go out to them.”

Latest figures for the Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust, which comprises of Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospitals, shows 34,287 patients have waited more than 18 weeks.

A further 11,107 had to wait more than 40 weeks and 7,763 people had to wait in excess of 52 weeks.

In addition 1,227 patients waited 78 weeks or more and 98 waited more than 104 weeks.

A hospital spokesman said: “Our staff have worked tirelessly to treat people throughout the pandemic and we are doing everything we can to reschedule other non-urgent appointments as soon as possible, in order of clinical need.”

“We temporarily paused some non-urgent elective procedures while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we have now restarted parts of our elective surgery programme and are working hard to care for people as quickly and safely as possible, prioritising those with the greatest clinical need first.”

The trust said urgent procedures, including cancer care, had continued throughout the pandemic.

Patients awaiting surgery continue to be supported through outpatient appointments.