One in 14 people now waiting for operations as demand on NHS soars

NHS England figures show number of people awaiting non-urgent surgery is at highest level since December 2007

Demand for medical care is rising so fast and hospitals are so busy that one in 14 people in England are now waiting to have a non-urgent operation.

NHS England figures released on Thursday show the number of people awaiting hospital treatment reached 3,754,961 in October – the highest level recorded since December 2007.

However, the real figure is 3.9 million, NHS England said, as five hospital trusts did not submit data. With England’s population now standing at 54.79 million, that means about 7% of them are now on the NHS’s referral to treatment (RTT) waiting list for operations such as cataract removal, hernia repair or hip or knee replacement.

The latest grim set of monthly NHS performance statistics also revealed other evidence of serious stress on the service as it heads into what many doctors fear will be a very difficult winter. More patients than ever are trapped in hospital despite being fit to leave, often because of inadequate social care, and the number of patients not treated in A&E within four hours is one of the highest ever.

Prof John Appleby, the chief economist and director of research at the Nuffield Trust thinktank, said: “These figures reveal just how tough things are for the NHS as winter approaches. With one in 14 people in England now on a waiting list, we are getting to the point where no family is immune from the growing pressures facing our health service.”

In October 360,255 people were not treated within the 18-week maximum supposedly guaranteed by the NHS constitution – the largest number since the 370,308 forced to wait beyond 18 weeks in October 2008.

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