NHS surgery wait list soars again to 6.2m as ambulance delays worst on record

HOSPITAL waiting lists in England have surged again to 6.2m as ambulance waiting times are now the worst on record.

NHS figures show an extra 80,000 Brits were lumped on to the surgery backlog in February.

The total number of people waiting is up by 2m in two years and now hits a new record high every month.

And top priority ambulances – for patients whose heart or breathing has stopped – took an average of nine minutes 35 seconds to arrive in March.

The 999 delays are the longest since records began in 2017, with stroke or heart attack patients waiting over an hour on average and less urgent patients over 3.5 hours.

Health chiefs say the NHS has had its busiest ever winter and is under “unrelenting pressure”.

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But clinics are making inroads, finally bringing down the number of people waiting more than one or two years for an op.

Dr Sarah Scobie, from the Nuffield Trust, said: “Waits of this scale create an impossible situation for staff and cause frightening levels of suffering among patients.

“Patients are waiting in pain for record lengths of time in A&E units, to be found a bed in hospital and even for ambulances to reach them for serious and life-changing illnesses.

“It’s almost unthinkable that one in 10 emergency patients waited over two hours for an ambulance which should take 18 minutes.”

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NHS Providers said it was”good news” to see that long waits for surgery are coming down, which was a top government priority.

The number of people waiting two years or more dropped for the first time in February, from 23,778 to 23,281.

And the number of one-year waits fell from 311,528 in January to 299,478 in February.

The percentage of people waiting more than six weeks for a diagnostic scan or test also dropped by six per cent during the first two months of 2022.

But hospitals are still missing most of their targets.

Dr Tim Cooksley, of the Society of Acute Medicine, said: “It is deeply concerning that the inability to even come close to meeting targets is now expected every month.

“Clinical and operational staff are working tirelessly to ensure this does not become the new normal.”

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NHS England medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: "Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands.

“Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July."

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