A record 7.57 million people in England are waiting for NHS hospital treatment – three million higher than it was before the pandemic – new data has shown.
NHS data published today (10 August) has revealed that more than 383,000 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine treatment by the end of June, which had dropped slightly from 385,000 a month earlier.
And around 7,170 people were waiting more than 18 months at the end of June, compared to 11,400 in May.
This is despite NHS England’s pledge to eliminate all 18 month waits by April 2024.
Commenting on the figure, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: ‘A perfect storm of squeezed funding in the NHS, the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, workforce shortages and now industrial action has pushed the waiting list to its highest point at 7.57 million.
‘This will ring alarm bells for trust leaders up and down the country as mounting care backlogs inevitably pile more pressure onto an already overstretched NHS. Amid ongoing strikes, this is an extremely busy summer for A&E while ambulance services also face very high demand and more urgent calls.’
Assistant director of policy at the Health Foundation Tim Gardner said: ‘Industrial action has hampered efforts to address the backlog, but a lack of staff and capacity meant the waiting list was increasing long before the pandemic and had reached 7.2 million before the first strike towards the end of last year.’
He added: ‘While ministers have been quick to blame strikes for the lack of progress, the roots of this lie in political failures to tackle rising pressures over the last decade. There are no quick fixes – ensuring people get the care they need at the time they need it hinges on the government acting to address the underlying problems facing the health service, which includes historic under-investment in equipment and buildings, as well as delivering the long-term workforce plan to address the significant staff shortages.’
NHS England had announced a hospital ‘matching’ tool to allow patients waiting the longest for care to travel for surgery.