The NHS waiting list in England has reached a record high with more people facing waits of over a year-and-a-half, new figures show.
The overall waiting list hit a new high of 7.77 million at the end of September – up from 7.75 million at the end of August, according to NHS England data. But officials have said this figure is actually made up of 6.5 million individual patients, as a number of patients are waiting for more than one treatment.
The overall waiting list is at its highest point since records began in August 2007 and comes despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying cutting waiting lists is one of his priorities.
The figures come after it emerged that hospitals in England will be allowed to cut back on some pre-planned care to cover the costs of strikes in the NHS.
The unprecedented industrial action which has beset the NHS since December last year has led to a bill of more than £1 billion for the health service in England. But it is understood that only four fifths of the cost will be footed through various sources and one measure proposed to balance the books is cutting back on pre-planned care.
Elective Care Backlog
Meanwhile the new NHS performance figures data also shows that some 10,201 people in England were estimated to have been waiting more than 18 months to start routine hospital treatment at the end of September, up from 8998 at the end of August.
The Government and NHS England set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April this year, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer.
But the number of people waiting for more than a year has reduced. A total of 391,122 people in England had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of September, down from 396,643 at the end of August.
The Government and NHS England have set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.
Emergency Department Waiting Times
Meanwhile the figures also show that the number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England from a decision to admit to actually being admitted was 44,655 in October, up 35% from 33,059 in September.
The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission has also increased, from 125,787 in September to 144,926 in October.
Some 70.2% of patients in England were seen within 4 hours in A&Es last month, down from 71.6% in September.
The NHS recovery plan sets a target of March 2024 for 76% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred or discharged within 4 hours.
NHS England said major A&E services had the busiest October on record as 2.2 million people attended accident and emergency departments.
It said ambulance services also saw the busiest month of the year so far. The average response time in October for ambulances in England dealing with the most urgent incidents, defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, was 8 minutes and 40 seconds, NHS figures show. This is up from 8 minutes and 31 seconds in September and is above the target standard response time of 7 minutes.
Ambulances took an average of 41 minutes and 40 seconds last month to respond to emergency calls such as heart attacks, strokes, and sepsis. This is up from 37 minutes and 38 seconds in September, while the target is 18 minutes.
Health officials have also said they are trying to bring in measures to streamline services for patients with multiple needs, such as bringing together appointments to reduce the number of hospital visits.