A RECORD 4.46 million patients in England were waiting for hospital treatment in November 2020, according to statistics published by the NHS.
Referral to treatment (RTT) figures reveal that 68.2 per cent of patients were seen within 18 weeks in November 2020, which falls short of the legal target of 92 per cent.
This performance does represent an improvement on the previous month, when 65.5 per cent were seen within 18 weeks – which illustrates the extent to which many elective services continued to run through the autumn, in spite of rising cases of Covid-19.
The number of patients waiting long term for hospital treatment rose steeply in November, with 192,169 patients waiting over 52 weeks compared to 162,888 in October. In November 2019, only 1,398 patients were waiting over a year for treatment.
Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, commented: "Today’s figures show the calamitous impact of COVID-19 on wait times for operations.
"A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown. When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment."
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said that the performance figures "highlight the frightening backlog of care growing in the NHS and the impact that Covid-19 is having on every corner of our system; slowing patient flow, pushing waiting times up, and doctors, to the brink".
"The NHS is without doubt facing its toughest challenge yet and these figures show that, even after the pandemic has finally subsided, there’s a huge amount of work to do to tackle the backlog and get waiting times down.
"It’s clear that we desperately need a thorough action plan to at least get a head-start on this backlog, but that also includes adequate funding and resources. Without this, we could find ourselves in an even worse position than we are now, with patients suffering long-term as a result."