More than half a million people are now on NHS waiting lists across Greater Manchester with tens of thousands of them waiting for more than one year.
There are 521,000 people currently waiting for elective care which is almost double the number waiting before the pandemic, when it stood at 283,000.
And the waiting list continues to grow by around 3,300 a week on average.
It comes as demand in A&E departments is still ‘significantly high’, affecting the number of beds available in hospitals, and staff are increasingly ‘fatigued’.
Hospitals are working together to clear the backlog caused by Covid and outsourcing some elective surgeries and procedures to the private sector.
However, many patients will inevitably endure excruciatingly long waits.
Guy Parker was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in December 2020 after his CT Scan was delayed due to the pandemic, leaving him in pain for months.
After first reporting stomach pains to his GP in January 2020, it wasn’t until the following year when he started chemotherapy at The Christie hospital.
Most of his large intestine was removed in an emergency operation in March 2021 when his bowels became blocked and he has had a stoma ever since.
Doctors declared Guy cancer-free last July, but he is still waiting for a stoma reversal operation almost 12 months after he was signed off for the surgery.
The 38-year-old, who lives in Fallowfield, is finally booked in for this long-awaited surgery with an appointment at Wythenshawe Hospital next week.
He said: “It was great coming out the other side and being told I don’t have cancer anymore.
“But I need to have that surgery to close the book on it.”
Another patient who spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, but asked to remain anonymous, has just joined a 72-week NHS waiting list.
After suffering ‘severe’ abdominal pains, an ultrasound identified a large gallstone in this patient who works for the NHS in Greater Manchester.
A week later, a consultant had warned that it could take up to six months for the gallbladder to be removed, a procedure that should last ‘a couple of hours’.
The NHS worker, who asked for their gender not be disclosed to protect their identity, is ‘fully aware’ of the situation in the health system, but was ‘taken aback’ when they were told that the wait for surgery could be up to 72 weeks.
Meanwhile, they are on an ‘as-close-to-zero’ fat diet to manage the pain.
They said: “In terms of quality of life, it really does affect everything.
“It’s put pressure on my relationship with my partner. We can’t go out for meals. It’s ruined a few birthdays.
“I was hoping to have a Christmas meal this year, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to.”
The latest number of people on the NHS waiting list in Greater Manchester was revealed at a joint health scrutiny committee meeting earlier this week.
Speaking to councillors at the meeting on Wednesday (21 September), Greater Manchester programme director elective recovery and reform Vicky Sharrock said hospitals are working together to deal with the backlog of elective care.
She praised staff for achieving the target of dealing with 104-week waits by July, but warned that it will be even more difficult to meet the next deadlines.
Hospitals in Greater Manchester met the national target of dealing with those waiting longer than two years, seeing around 7,000 of them by the summer.
There are now around 6,000 patients waiting for 72 weeks or longer, but on the current trajectory, by March this is could increase by up to 84,000 more.
The scrutiny committee was told that hospital chief executives are focusing on productivity and efficiency, learning from each other and national teams.
The private sector is also playing a ‘critical part’ in clearing the Covid backlog.
However, ‘significantly high’ demand for urgent care and a fatigued workforce is having an impact on the NHS’s ability to tackle its ever-growing waiting lists.
Ms Sharrock said: “The pressure in the system is impacted by influences that are outside of the elective programme.
“In tackling that elective backlog and that really high number of waiters that we’ve got, we are actually impacted on by factors that are outside the span of this particular programm