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7.68 million people await hospital treatment in England, a record high

Concerns mount as waiting lists grow, despite government pledge of extra funding

Source: Sky News

The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has hit a record high.

An estimated 7.68 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July, up from 7.57 million in June.

It is the highest number since records began in August 2007 and marks the eighth consecutive month of increases.

It comes as the government said the NHS will receive an extra £200m this winter.

Figures also showed a total of 389,952 people in England had been waiting more than a year - and around 7,289 people more than 18 months - to start routine hospital treatment at the end of July.

This is up from 383,083 - and 7,177 - at the end of June, respectively.

The government and NHS England set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April this year, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer - and all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

Cancer waiting times

Around 263,696 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in July, up 1% on 261,006 in June and up 10% year-on-year from 239,739 in July 2022.

The proportion of cancer patients who saw a specialist within two weeks of being referred fell from 80.5% in June to 77.5% in July - below the target of 93%, which is being dropped from October.

There was some improvement in cancer waiting times. In July, 37% of those starting treatment received their urgent referral more than two months prior, down from 41% in June and 38% in July 2022.

That is down significantly from the worst-ever performance of 45% in January, though still significantly above pre-pandemic levels (21% in August 2019).

Meanwhile, 74.1% of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out within 28 days, up from 73.5% the previous month. The target is 75%.

Ambulance response times

Further data revealed it took ambulances an average of 31.5 minutes to respond to Category 2 incidents - such as heart attacks and strokes - in August.

This was a slight improvement compared to July (31.8 minutes) and a big improvement compared to August 2022 (42.6 minutes).

However, it was still significantly worse than before the pandemic. In Aug 2019, the equivalent response time was just 21.3 minutes, and in August 2018 it was 20.6 minutes.

A&E performance

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England from a decision to admit to actually being admitted was 28,859 in August, up 21% from 23,934 in July.

The figure hit a record 54,573 in December 2022.

The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission also went up, from 109,515 in July to 120,120 in August, an increase of 10%.

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