THOUSANDS of patients were left waiting months for treatment at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals, latest figures show.

According to NHS rules, anyone referred by their doctor for non-urgent consultant-led care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

But NHS England statistics show that 6,721 patients due to be treated at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had been waiting longer than that at the end of October – 18 per cent of those on the waiting list.

It means the trust is falling well short of the NHS’s target for the 18-week threshold to be met in at least 92 per cent of cases.

Of those not seen in time, 333 had waited more than 36 weeks.

The figures quoted only cover those still waiting to start treatment, and do not account for how long patients who started treatment waited.

The Patients Association said long waits can be unbelievably stressful, and blamed underfunding, poor planning and higher demand for increased waiting times.

Lucy Watson, chairwoman of the Patients Association, said that longer waits for patients were “unacceptable.”

She added: “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, and rising levels of patient need linked to demographic change.

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“The Government will have to go well beyond its current spending plans in order to reverse this trend decisively.”

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We accept that some of our current waiting times are longer than anyone in our local health and care system would like and we recognise that waiting for any procedure can be an anxious and frustrating time for patients and their families.”

“Our staff are working extremely hard to deliver the safest, highest-quality care they can in often very difficult circumstances.

“We have agreed with our commissioners to aim to end the financial year with no patients waiting over 40 weeks from referral to treatment and have no more patients waiting over 18 weeks than there were at the same time last year.

Across England, 85 per cent of patients waiting to start treatment at the end of October had been doing so for 18 weeks or fewer – below the target.

This was the lowest proportion for the month since 2007.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said that while targets can drive improvement, they would be hard to achieve without a “much-needed injection” of staff.

“We need the Government to commit to doubling the number of medical school places.”