The NHS waiting list has hit a record 6.73 million, as A&Es report their worst ever performance, shocking new data shows.
The number of people waiting for NHS care grew by 100,000 in June, up from 6.6 million – while those waiting more than a year treatment stood at 355,774, up from 331,623 the previous month.
But the figure for people waiting more than two years has dropped sharply after peaking at 23,281 in February, standing at 3,861 in June.
To make matters worse, a record 29,317 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in July after they were admitted, NHS figures reveal.
And last month saw the highest number of ambulance callouts for life-threatening conditions since records began, according to NHS England.
There were more than 85,000 category one calls – for situations like cardiac arrests and people stopping breathing.
The heatwave has been pinpointed as one reason for the increased demand, but experts pointed to the immense pressure already on hospitals.
Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund told the BBC that pressure was being felt across the health and social care system.
He said: “At the end of July, 13,014 people were still in hospital beds despite being medically fit to be discharged, often due to a lack of available social care support. The challenges affecting the NHS cannot be solved without addressing the issues in social care.”
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, added: “While the total backlog will continue to increase for some time, by managing to virtually eliminate two-year waits we are turning a corner in tackling Covid’s impact on elective care.
“As the country faces another period of high temperatures after last month’s record-breaking heatwave, it is vital that anyone who feels unwell seeks advice or an NHS referral through 111 online or their local pharmacy, and only calls 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.”
Max Warner, of the independent research body the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said that while the drop in two-year waits was “encouraging”, in other areas the news “is much less positive”.
“The number of people waiting more than a year, and more than 18 weeks, is continuing to rise,” he said.
“Fewer people are joining the waiting list than pre-pandemic, and despite GPs delivering many more appointments, there are still fewer GP referrals than pre-pandemic.
“This raises the worrying prospect that many people are currently living with health conditions that they would previously have been treated for.”