NHS waiting lists have risen to a 10-year high and crucial cancer targets have once again been missed, official data shows.
Frustrated health leaders today slammed the damning statistics, warning there are neither ‘the staff nor the resources to cope’ with the pressure.
And they stressed it was unclear how the NHS will ever catch up with the backlog from the ‘worst winter ever’, after thousands of operations were cancelled.
Figures released by NHS England today showed:
Under the NHS Constitution, patients have a right to undergo a procedure within 18 weeks of being referred by their consultant.
But figures for May show only 88.1 per cent of patients were seen within the strict timeframe – well below the Government’s 92 per cent target.
And 211,324 patients have been forced to endure minimum six month waits for treatment – 48 per cent higher than the same time last year.
The new data also revealed there were 3,101 patients waiting longer than a year for a referral to treatment – the highest total since June 2012.
Surgeons today stressed it was unclear how the NHS will clear the winter backlog, branded the worst ever by former Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Health chiefs controversially declared tens of thousands of operations would be postponed back in January to cope with the winter surge.
Susan Hill, senior vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘It is extremely stressful for patients and their families to have to wait this long.
‘These patients will be in severe pain and discomfort, possibly unable to work or carry out daily tasks.
‘Not enough has been said about how the NHS plans to deal with the backlog of patients that built up over last winter.
‘Hospitals must get their waiting lists under control before the next winter creeps up and we find ourselves in an even worse position.’
Miss Hill urged Theresa May’s recent promise of a £20 billion cash injection for the NHS to help ‘chip away at these very long waiting times’.
A&E performance data, also released today, shows casualty units are finally starting to recover after the unprecedented winter pressure.
Only 33,754 patients were left languishing in waiting rooms and corridors for more than four hours – the lowest total since November 2015.
This is despite the surge in A&E attendances, blamed on the heatwave across Britain as temperatures soared to the early 30s in some parts.
However, emergency units across England are still well below the Government time-target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours of entering A&E.
Just 90.7 per cent of patients were seen within the time frame in June, slightly up on the 90.4 per cent recorded in May.
Janet Davies, Royal College of Nursing chief, said: ‘A&E admissions are climbing as the temperature soars, and there are neither the staff nor the resources to cope.’
She also called on new Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to ‘urgently address’ the staff shortages that are ‘crippling’ the NHS.
Ms Davies added: ‘These figures should leave the new Health Secretary in no doubt as to the scale of the task ahead of him.
‘The NHS barely scraped through last winter, and only then by cancelling thousands of non-urgent operations.’