NHS waiting lists hit new record high of 7.7 million

The NHS waiting list in England has hit a new record high, with 7.7 million people – around one in seven – waiting for treatment, data shows.

New figures from NHS England show a rise in the overall list, plus more people facing long waits of a year or more compared to the previous month.

The waiting list for treatment has been growing for much of the last decade, passing three million in 2014, four million in 2017, five million in 2021 and seven million in 2022.

In February 2020, the last full month before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the waiting list stood at 4.57 million.

Since then, the list has increased by just over three million, to 7.68 million as of July this year – the latest monthly figures just released by NHS England.

This is up from 7.57 million in June and the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The new data shows 389,952 people in England had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of July, up from 383,083 at the end of June.

Some 7,289 people in England are also estimated to have been waiting more than 18 months to start routine hospital treatment at the end of July, up from 7,177 at the end of June.

When it comes to cancer, the picture is mixed, with a rise in the number of urgent cancer referrals made by GPs to 263,696 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 urgently by their GP fell from 80.5% in June to 77.5% in July, remaining below the target of 93%.

The number of patients waiting longer than 62 days since an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer was down slightly, the data further showed.

Some 62.6% of cancer patients who had their first treatment in July after an urgent GP referral had waited less than two months, up from 59.2% in June.

The target is 85% and will remain one of the key cancer measures following the streamlining of performance standards in October.

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% and this will also remain one of the performance standards beyond October.

Speaking to TalkTV's Vanessa Feltz, political commentator Mike Buckley said the waiting list for cancer appointments is "staggering".

"Imagine if it was yourself, imagine if it was a family member, who you're waiting for this incredibly important diagnosis or treatment, possibly you or your family members. Life is at stake, the last thing you want is for it to be deferred.

"The government, as we know, are refusing to negotiate, they're refusing to even entertain the idea they might need to pay more money [to NHS staff] - even though salaries here are way below where they are elsewhere."