A patient at the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Trust waited more than two years for treatment, figures obtained by the PA news agency show.
The NHS does not routinely publish details on how long patients have been waiting after two years – categorising them all as waiting for “two years or over”.
To find out how much longer these patients had been waiting, PA sent Freedom of Information requests to 125 non-specialist acute hospital trusts in England.
Trusts were asked how many patients had been waiting for three years in January – in line with the latest available data from the NHS at the time – how many had been waiting for at least four years, and the longest period a patient had been waiting for an appointment.
Figures provided by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust show one patient had been waiting 117 weeks (around two years and three months) for treatment as of the end of January.
From the 69 trusts that responded across England, PA found that more than 91 patients had been waiting for at least three years, with at least eight waiting for four years or more.
NHS England data shows that a total of 23,778 people in England were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of January – around nine times the 2,608 people who were waiting longer than two years in April 2021.
While there could be important caveats behind the data – such as patients choosing to delay their care for personal reasons or data anomalies – the figures obtained through the FOI request suggest that many patients have been left waiting in pain or have been suffering for years.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, a professional body for surgeons, told PA: “It is shocking that people have been waiting years for planned NHS hospital treatment.
“Waiting in limbo for a planned hip, hernia or ear operation can cause real emotional and physical distress.”
The Government and NHS England have set the ambition to eliminate all waits of more than two years, except when it is the patient’s choice, by July 2022.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the health service is still facing huge pressures but trusts are doing “all they can” to reduce patient backlogs.