Hospital waiting lists hit record high in England
Record numbers of patients are now on hospital waiting lists in England, with delays for A&E care also at their highest recorded levels in history.
NHS England is also short of its target for commencing cancer treatment.
The health service aims for 85 per cent of patients to begin treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral but in the most recent NHS figures, only 76.9 per cent of patients underwent the first phase of treatment on time.
The NHS has consistently missed this target since December 2015.
NHS statistics also showed that 4.42 million patients were on waiting lists at the end of September 2019. Out of the 4.42 million, 84.8 per cent were seen within 18 weeks, with the NHS target being 92 per cent.
Meanwhile, NHS targets for A&E patients outline that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
The health service only managed this with 83.6 per cent of patients throughout October this year.
NHS England said that the increase in “older and sicker patients” with the onset of winter has stretched hospital resources.
A NHS spokesperson has since advised the public to use the 111 phone line or NHS online services for non-emergencies rather than going to hospital and called on individuals to immunise themselves with the latest flu vaccine.
However, Dr Nick Scriven, from the Society of Acute Medicine, has raised concerns about the figures, particularly as the “traditional winter period” is yet to come.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of the NHS Providers body, also expressed concerns on the "huge pressure" already exerted on the healthcare system ahead of the harsher weather of the post-Christmas period.
Health secretary Matt Hancock intends to increase the NHS budget by 3.4 per cent a year above inflation until 2023, as part of the Conservative party’s pre-election spending pledges to provide public services with much needed investment.
However, with these figures the last to be published before December’s general election, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have taken the opportunity to criticise Conservative healthcare policy.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that a Conservative victory in December’s national poll would only culminate in a “winter of abject misery” for the health service, while Lib Dem spokeswoman Luciana Berger called the Tory’s record in the sector “shameful”.