NHS backlog hits record high with nearly six million waiting for treatment

Nearly six million people in England are waiting to start routine hospital treatment – a record high.

Figures from NHS England showed that 5.7 million people were on waiting lists at the end of August, which is the highest figure since records began in August 2007.

Of those, some 9,754 people had been waiting more than two years to begin hospital treatment, more than three times the 2,722 people who were waiting longer than two years in April.

Among them are people awaiting hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.

NHS England has told hospitals to eliminate all waits of more than two years by March 2022.

One of Sajid Javid's main tasks is to get waiting lists down following the pandemic© PA One of Sajid Javid’s main tasks is to get waiting lists down following the pandemic

Meanwhile, the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 292,138 in August, down slightly from 293,102 the previous month.

However, it was more than double the number waiting a year earlier, in August 2020, which was 111,026.

NHS England said that a record 5,025 people had to wait more than 12 hours at A&Es in England last month from a decision to admit to actually being admitted, which is the highest since records began in August 2010.

Around 104,875 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission itself – also the highest monthly total on record.

Official figures showed that A&E attendances in England last month were 26% higher than the same time last year, though this is a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for September 2020, which were affected by the pandemic.

A&E attendances in England were up by 26% in September© PA A&E attendances in England were up by 26% in September

A total of 2.1 million attendances were recorded in September 2021, up from 1.7 million in September 2020.

The equivalent figure for September 2019, a non-pandemic year, was also 2.1 million.

The latest NHS England figures on urgent cancer referrals show that 210,931 were made by GPs in England in August, up 24% from the 170,036 reported in August last year.

The equivalent figure for pre-pandemic August 2019 was 200,317.

Urgent breast cancer referrals were also up in August to 11,179, compared to 9,486 in August last year.

Despite the pressures, and concern over an impending winter of COVID and flu admissions, people are being urged to seek treatment if needed – and to get their vaccinations if they haven’t already.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite the busiest September on record, NHS staff have moved heaven and earth to make the best possible use of additional investment delivering millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations.

“That is why it is really important people do not delay seeking help from the NHS if they feel unwell.”


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