More patients enduring long waits for NHS treatment

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment continues to rise, new figures show.

Across England, 139,545 people had waited more than 52 weeks to start treatment as of September this year – the highest number for any calendar month since September 2008.

In September 2019, the figure was just 1,305.

The data from NHS England also shows 1.72 million people were waiting more than 18 weeks to start treatment in September.

This is down from 1.96 million in August, but is up sharply on the equivalent figure for September 2019 of 672,112.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was also down 27% in September compared with a year ago.

Some 209,562 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 288,230 in September 2019.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in August was 43%, and in July the drop was 55%.

Meanwhile, accident and emergency attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels of a year ago.

A total of 1.6 million attendances were recorded in October, down 26% from 2.2 million in the same month of 2019.

NHS England said the fall is “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The year-on-year drop in A&E attendances of 26% in October compares with falls of 20% in September, 19% in August and 30% in July.

An NHS spokesman said: “Despite rapidly rising Covid hospitalisations, cancer services are now back at pre-pandemic levels, GP appointments are running ahead of this time last year, and hospitals have made particular progress in bringing back overnight elective operations.

“But it is clear that where there are higher levels of Covid we are seeing an impact on routine non-urgent care, so the public can play their part by continuing to help stop the spread of the virus.”

According to NHS England, the NHS was back to 80% of overnight planned operations at the end of October compared to the same point last year, 100% of CT scans and 88% of MRIs.

Planned treatment in the South East is back to 94% and 74% in the North West where Covid infections are higher, it said.

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