The NHS waiting list has reached a record high for the second month in a row, according to official figures.
There are now 4.3million people waiting for hospital treatment and 140,000 people were added to the list between January and April this year.
Record numbers of people are being treated by NHS surgeons and specialists but more of them are having to wait longer than four-and-a-half months.
The waiting list figures were released alongside other data revealing May was the second busiest month on record for A&E departments in England.
Health leaders have said ‘patients in pain’ are behind the growing numbers and the Government isn’t taking the issue seriously enough.
Critics say the Government isn’t taking the NHS’s ‘dire situation’ seriously enough and more investment is needed to stop the ‘ever-deepening’ crisis (stock image)
The waiting list figures show how many people have been referred for outpatient treatment at hospitals in England but haven’t yet had it done.
April’s figure was around 70,000 higher than March’s, with a rise from 4.23million to 4.3million people.
In comparison, a year ago there were 4.03million people n the list, and two years earlier it was 3.78million.
The rise comes as medics complain of burgeoning patient lists and numbers of people with multiple serious health conditions.
‘We must not forget that behind these numbers are patients waiting in pain and discomfort,’ said Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons.
He added those patients are ‘possibly unable to work or look after themselves, all the while worried about when they might receive the treatment they need’.
‘Living this way for months on end can have a huge impact on quality of life and further deterioration in their health.’
Procedures people have to wait for tend to be routine non-emergency operations such as joint replacements or cataract surgery.
‘These figures show NHS performance is heading in the wrong direction,’ added Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at health think-tank the King’s Fund.
‘The new five-year funding deal for the NHS came with the explicit expectation that the NHS would get back on the path to delivering its core performance standards.
THREE QUARTERS OF HOSPITALS MISSED CANCER WAITING TARGETS LAST YEAR
Figures revealed today by the BBC showed almost three out of four NHS hospitals failed to hit an NHS target of treating 85 per cent of cancer patients within 62 days of their GP referral.
Some 94 out of 131 NHS trusts missed the target in 2018/19 – a rise from just 36 five years earlier.
In the worst performing trust last year – Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells – only 60.8 per cent of people were treated within the four-and-a-half month target.
In all, 28 trusts failed to treat even three quarters of their patients on time – a measure that would still be significantly lower than the NHS target.
NHS England as a whole managed to treat just 79.4 per cent of people within 62 days of their urgent referral from a GP, while 32,000 people waited longer.
A spokesperson for the health service said: ‘Cancer survival is at an all-time high in England and that is because the NHS continues to put itself under pressure by ramping up the number of people who get checked so that more cancers are caught early when they are easier to treat.
‘A record 2.2million people underwent tests last year, up 15 per cent on just 12 months earlier, and nearly 130,000 were treated within the two month target.’
‘But today’s figures show there is still a long way to go, with record numbers of people stuck on hospital waiting lists.
‘Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it is hard to see how the NHS can get back to delivering its performance standards while it remains in the grip of a workforce crisis.
‘If the government is serious about giving patients timely access to care, it must deliver on its promises to address staffing shortages and provide investment and reform for social care and preventative services.’
Huge numbers of patients waiting is also denting the proportion of them who can be treated within the NHS’s 18-week target.
This fell to just 86.5 per cent of people in April – the lowest figure since January 2009.
Some 579,403 people had been waiting more than four-and-a-half months, with 1,047 waiting more than a year already.
The British Medical Association called the statistics a ‘major red flag’.
Chair of its consultants committee, Dr Rob Harwood, said: ‘This latest set of NHS figures show a health service descending into an ever-deepening crisis and closer to a system unfit for purpose.
‘Across the board, hospital, general practice and community services are struggling to cope and these statistics should serve as a major red flag of the need for urgent investment to reach the frontline.
‘Medical and support staff are continuing to do their best for patients but without immediate investment, those efforts will not be enough to guarantee safe, effective care.’
He added ‘the NHS is in a dire situation’.
The Labour Party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: ‘Yet again today’s statistics show an NHS struggling under pressure.
‘These figures are a reminder that years of Tory underfunding and understaffing has left patients increasingly anxious and worried for test results, and will be forced to wait longer for vital treatment.
‘Ministers should put aside their Tory leadership squabbles and sort out the issues in the health service.’
A&E departments saw an almost-record number of patients in May, the latest figures also revealed, with 2,172,920 people seeking emergency help.
This was second only to 2.179m in July last year.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: ‘Emergency access is in a dire state and, given that a new crisis engulfs the NHS almost every month, it is hard to see how patients and staff can be reassured that we will ever get back on a stable footing.
‘We have seen huge increases in pressure against a backdrop of falling numbers of GPs, cuts to social care which will take years to repair, vacancies among nurses with no laws to ensure safe staffing and a decrease in beds.
‘What I find most disconcerting is how we do not see these major problems being resolved and then, within a short period, see another and I fear for how long it can go on like this.’