The number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment in England is now almost 1.45 million – the highest figure since 2007, figures show.
PA Media reports that data from NHS England shows the number of people having to wait more than 18 weeks to start hospital treatment rose to 1,448,357 million in May this year. This is more than double the number in May 2019 (576,237) and the highest number for any calendar month since December 2007.
The figure was also a rise on the 1,132,602 recorded for the previous month of April 2020.
Just 62.2% of people were seen within 18 weeks, the records for May show, against a target of 95%.
The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England also rose to 26,029 in May 2020, up from 1,032 in May 2019 and the highest number for any calendar month since September 2009.
Within the figures, more than half a million patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in May 2020, after having been referred by a GP.
A total of 571,459 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy. The equivalent number waiting for more than six weeks in May 2019 was 43,230.
The latest data also shows that the number of patients admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 82% in May compared with a year ago due to the impact of Covid-19.
A total of 54,550 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 295,881 in May 2019.
Some 106,535 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in May 2020, down from 200,599 in May 2019 – a fall of 47%. This is the number of people seen by a cancer consultant within two weeks of being referred.
Urgent breast cancer referrals showed an even bigger drop: down from 15,802 in May 2019 to 5,371 in May 2020, a fall of 66%.
Dr Nick Scriven of the Society for Acute Medicine, told PA Media:
Clearly NHS performance across the board continues to be hugely affected by Covid-19, though we must also remember performance has been poor for a lot longer than that and questions need to be answered as to how we ensure the sustainable future of the service.
We are very concerned about the growing crisis in accessing diagnostic tests, with the total number of patients waiting six weeks or more from referral for one of the 15 key tests at almost 571,500 – 58.5% of the total number of patients waiting – which is shocking given the target is 1%.