Those waiting for more than a year for a routine operation was 293,102 in July ‑ more than three times as high as the same period last year when 83,203 had been on the list for this long. More than 1.7 million have been left waiting more than 18 weeks for surgery, which is outside the health service’s own timeframe for treatment.
The longest delays are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as hip and knee replacements, followed by general surgery such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations.
And the latest NHS data, described as “eye-watering” by a leading surgeon, shows 7,980 patients waiting more than two years for treatment.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, said: “All NHS services are affected, with primary care, hospital care and mental health services seeing the demand for care rise as the immediate threat of Covid recedes.
“Even before Covid, waiting lists for treatment had substantially worsened.
“The significant investment the Government has now promised is very welcome but will not lead to an increase in the number of hospital beds or clinical staff overnight.
“The Prime Minister is right to warn the public that waiting lists will get worse before they get better.”
Tim Mitchell, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, called for immediate investment to relieve the bottleneck and help people live the quality of life they deserve.
He said: “The waiting times show the new funding for planned surgery is sorely needed. Behind these eye-watering statistics are patients waiting in pain for hip and knee replacements and for heart, brain and other operations.
“Without surgery, many would be left unable to work or carry out everyday activities, their quality of life diminished.”
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted the NHS can cope with the pressure of those needing treatment.
He said: “We’ve seen that around seven million people haven’t come forward in the normal way because of the pandemic.
“We want to tell them the NHS is open for them. But I know that with this catch-up fund, and the innovation the NHS can do, we can tackle the waiting lists.”
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “These figures show that cancer waiting time targets continue to be missed, as they have been for years.
“The NHS funding announced this week is a vital part of helping patients get tests and treatment sooner. But it is just one piece of the puzzle.
“The NHS urgently needs more staff and equipment, and without long-term investment in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, waiting times won’t be met and there is a real risk that cancer survival could go backwards.”
Boris Johnson is hiking National Insurance by 1.25 percent to pay for a £36billion fund to clear the backlog, including £5.4billion for social care.
The latest data shows the total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England in July 2021 was 259,642.
The equivalent figure for July 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 314,280.
My months of struggle for a knee replacement
Caryl Wright, who has debilitating osteoarthritis, has asked her GP for a referral to hospital for many years.
The 70 year old was finally added to the waiting list at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a knee replacement at the start of 2020 ‑ and she has been left in the lurch since.
She said: “I’ve been waiting for well over a year now, and I can hardly believe it but I finally have an appointment to see the consultant at the end of September.
“Mind you, there’s no telling how long I will need to wait for surgery after that.
“I’m in agony in the middle of the night, every night with my knee, and due to the strain my ‘good’ knee has been under whilst waiting for surgery, it’s looking like I’ll probably need both of them replaced now.”
The part-time charity worker, from Norwich, is unable to walk and relies on her nephew Jamie to help with basic household tasks.
Caryl added: “Luckily I can drive without any pain, if I couldn’t I wouldn’t be able to leave the house because I cannot walk as far as the bus stop. I feel about 20 years older than I am.
“My doctor has tried giving me many different painkillers, but I hate taking them, and none of them work well.
“It feels as if there may be light at the end of the tunnel. But I don’t understand how the NHS is ever going to catch up with the backlog.”