The NHS is “on its knees”, leading health experts have warned, as tens of thousands of patients in the North East wait months for treatment.

New data from NHS England shows the health service buckling under pressure, with health professionals saying “chronic workforce shortages” were heaping pressure on overstretched staff who are exhausted from the pandemic.

Figures show more than 61,000 people were waiting to start treatment in the region at the end of September - contributing to a national total of 5.8 million - while there were also severe delays in ambulances reaching 999 calls.

NHS hospital trusts throughout the region have been hard hit as the health service continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic while also tackling seasonal flu.

Read more: Patients in Darlington faced SIX HOUR wait for treatment​

The Northern Echo: North East NHS trust's North East NHS trust's

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust currently has the highest number of patients on its waiting list in County Durham and the Tees Valley, with 12,285 people waiting for treatment at the end of September.

Nearly three thousand waited more than six weeks for treatment, while 1,296 faced a wait longer than 13 weeks.

Weeks-long waiting times were also an issue at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, as 7,549 people were on the waiting list. More than a thousand waited more than six weeks for treatment but those waiting over 13 weeks decreased to 178.

Patients were seen quicker at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, with just 151 and 27 patients waiting more than six and 13 weeks respectively.

Only two per cent of all patients waited more than six weeks compared to 23 per cent at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Read more: County Durham village among 24 in North East with highest Covid rates

NHS England said major A&Es treated more than 1.4 million people during October – the highest ever for the month and third highest of all time.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “With the highest number of 999 calls ever answered for a single month, the busiest October on record for major A&E, and the rollout of boosters as part of the successful NHS vaccination programme, there is no doubt pressure on the health service remains incredibly high.”

Responding to the figures, Labour MP for Stockton North Alex Cunningham said: “Healthcare backlogs are bigger than ever and unless the Government take urgent action, more lives will be unnecessarily lost.

“Ministers must urgently publish fully resourced plan to support our NHS to tackle the backlog of unmet clinical need and improve care for patients.”

A survey of 450 leaders across the health service found nine out of 10 said the situation they face is “unsustainable”.

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