Almost 5 million people in England are waiting for hospital treatment – the highest number ever – as the NHS struggles to recover from the impact of Covid-19 on normal care.
At the same time the number of people who have been forced to wait more than a year to get into hospital has risen to over 400,000 – the most since 2007.
The stark figures from NHS England renewed fears that lengthening delays in obtaining care could worsen the health of people with cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.
The number of patients on the waiting-list rose from 4.69 million in February to 4.95 million in March – an increase of more than 250,000. And the number of people waiting more than a year was also up, from 387,885 to 436,127, leading to fears among medical groups and health charities that some patients may become less easy to treat, or even untreatable, as a result.
An IFS report, also released on Thursday, warned that the waiting list could quickly get much bigger as patients unable or unwilling to access non-Covid care over the last 15 months belatedly saw their GP and were referred to hospital. It showed that the pandemic’s disruption of hospital care meant that 2.9 million fewer patients received planned care last year and 1.2 million fewer patients were admitted to hospital as an emergency.
Photo: NHS Ambulance staff outside the Royal London hospital in London, Britain. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN
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