The NHS waiting list in England has risen to a new record as medics warn of a crisis in hospitals and emergency care will only get worse as the country moves into winter.
Official figures show that 6.8 million patients were waiting in line for routine hospital treatment in July, equivalent to one in eight people.
Nearly 380,000 have been waiting for over a year, while more than 2,800 have been behind schedule for at least two years – a list due to be cleared by July.
Separate emergency department data shows three in 10 Brits were forced to wait longer than four hours in emergency departments in August, while nearly a thousand waited 12 hours a day.
While ambulance response times recovered slightly over the past month, the time it took paramedics to arrive at the scene was still well above target.
The Society for Acute Medicine warned there was no “quick fix” and urged health chiefs to be frank “how terrible this winter will be” – as the public cannot count on “quality and timely care”.
The NHS blames pressure on emergency care, the highest-ever summer demand and problems in social care for the crisis. It pointed to its waitlist for tests and reviews, which has fallen for three straight months.
Figures from NHS England show 6.8 million patients were waiting in line for routine hospital treatment in July, the equivalent of one in eight people. Almost 380,000 have been waiting for over a year
Emergency department data shows that three in 10 Brits were forced to wait longer than four hours in emergency departments in August, while almost a thousand waited 12 hours a day
Ambulance response times recovered slightly in August, but the time it took paramedics to arrive at the scene was still well above target
The number of people waiting in line for elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements rose by 113,000 (1.7 percent) in July from a previous record of 6.7 million in June.
Six out of ten (4.1 million) have been waiting for four months.
Meanwhile, 377,689 have been seeking treatment for at least a year – up 21,915 in a month – and 2,885 have been waiting for two years – down 967 from June.
The NHS insists all but 170 of the 24-month waiters have either ‘choosen to defer treatment’ – by refusing an earlier appointment at another hospital – or are ‘complex cases’ that are not safe in could be transferred to another hospital.
The NHS had set itself the target of eliminating two-year waiting times by July, barring those choosing to delay treatment and complex cases.
The next deadline is to eliminate the number of people waiting more than 18 months by April 2023. One-year waiting times are unlikely to be abolished before March 2025.
However, the number of patients awaiting tests and examinations has fallen for three straight months and stands at 1.5 million.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said the data showed the healthcare system was making “significant progress” in reducing residues.
He noted that despite rising calls and challenges in social care, there have been “improvements in emergency department performance and ambulance response times.”
‘Staff are already looking ahead to a winter that is likely to be just as challenging as more 999 and 111 call operators are hired while an additional 7,000 beds are made available,’ added Professor Powis.
Separate figures for A&E show 1.9 million people sought emergency care in August — 175,000 fewer than in July.
About 505,946 people (28.6 percent) had to wait more than four hours — a slight improvement from last month, when 559,183 (29 percent) faced a queue of over four hours.
However, almost all emergency room participants (95 percent) should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. But his goal has not been met nationally since 2015.
Fewer patients waited 12 hours or longer – 28,756 in August compared to 29,317 in July. However, the number is the second-highest since records began in 2010. Before the pandemic, the monthly record was 2,356.
But this problem is believed to be much worse than the numbers suggest. The 12-hour period is the time between when the medical professionals decide that a patient needs to be admitted and when a bed is actually assigned.
But patients usually come hours before their condition is considered serious enough for further treatment.