Patients awaiting operations at Norfolk's largest hospital could be missing out on earlier treatment because they are unprepared to travel to get it, bosses fear. 

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital currently has around 8,700 patients waiting for orthopaedic surgeries such as knee operations, with the number expected to grow.

But bosses at the N&N say patients could significantly shorten their waits if they are open to travelling out of the area for their operations.

Under a new system launched by the NHS last year, patients who have been waiting longer than 10 months can opt to have their procedures carried out at hospitals elsewhere in the country, where waiting lists are shorter.

But of the patients at the N&N given this option, one in five are saying no (22pc), favouring waiting longer but staying local.

The hospital's board of directors heard that patients locally were reluctant to travel because they had become "attached" to the hospital after getting to know and trust their doctors and surgeons - as well as having a sense of pride in their local community.

Chris Cobb, chief operating officer at the hospital, compared Norfolk's figure to a hospital in Grantham, Lincolnshire, which has the highest level of uptake - with 97pc of patients open to travel.

He said: "I do not think we will be doing this (sending 97pc of patients away) but what we will be doing is looking for a more experienced national view to see if we are missing a trick. I can not see where we are going wrong."

Prof Lesley Dwyer, chief executive of the N&N, said: "We are very open to looking at different ways to do this - but for those 22pc it is a life choice.

"It is positive to put opportunities out there that people might not realise are there."