Half a million patients are waiting more than 18 weeks for routine operations on the NHS, official data reveals.
Outraged medics today branded the queue – which is the longest in almost a decade – ‘shameful’ and ‘very worrying’.
Under the NHS Constitution, patients have a right to undergo a procedure within 18 weeks of being referred by their consultant.
But figures for April show only 87.5 per cent of patients were seen within the strict timeframe – well below the Government’s 92 per cent target.
The Royal College of Surgeons stressed it was unclear how the NHS will catch up with the backlog from the ‘worst winter ever’.
Outraged medics today branded the queue for surgery – which is the longest in almost a decade – ‘shameful’ and ‘very worrying’
Its vice president Ian Eardley said: ‘It is very worrying that there are now half a million patients waiting for planned hospital treatment.
‘Disappointingly, and despite the efforts of frontline staff, NHS waiting lists have now ballooned to levels that we have not seen since 2008.’
‘We’re now in June and yet it remains unclear how the NHS plans to catch up with the planned surgery backlog caused by the winter pressures.
‘If patients have to wait excessively long for surgery there is a risk their condition will deteriorate and the treatment will be less effective.
‘It is also very distressing – and debilitating for someone who is living with a painful condition – to have to wait a long time for treatment.’
JUST HOW STRETCHED IS THE NHS?
Waiting times at over-stretched A&E units are at their worst level since records began, according to official figures revealed April 2018.
Experts said the NHS was in the grip of an ‘eternal winter’ and many hospitals are still struggling to cope with the unprecedented pressure.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt was forced to admit it was the ‘worst winter ever’ amid a severe outbreak of flu and cold weather.
Chiefs cancelled thousands of operations in a controversial move to ease pressure. And experts have suggested this may be the only option to stop a crisis next year.
The latest monthly data from NHS England also shows that waiting times for routine operations, such as knee and hip replacements, are at their highest since 2004.
And violent assaults on staff have risen by 10 per cent in a year – partly driven by frustration with waiting times.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Half a million people have waited more than 18 weeks for planned care, the highest figure in ten years.
‘And the number waiting more than a year is approaching 3,000. That is truly shameful.
‘For these people, the Prime Minister’s promise of more NHS funding cannot come soon enough.’
Waiting lists have been on the rise since the controversial decision in January to delay tens of thousands of operations.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the move as the NHS struggled to cope with unprecedented winter pressures.
The new figures, released by NHS England, showed there were 500,068 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment in April.
This is the highest total since August 2008 – when the queue of people who hadn’t been seen in five months breached 520,000.
And it is 30 per cent than the same time last year, when there were just 382,000 patients waiting 18 weeks for planned operations.
The new data also revealed there were 2,882 patients waiting longer than a year for a referral to treatment.
This is the highest total since July 2012 – when the queue of patients who hadn’t been seen in 52 weeks breached 2,900.