Number of people waiting over a year for hospital treatment highest since 2008

10 December 2020, 11:00

File photo: A ward at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool
File photo: A ward at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 162,888 in October of this year - the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008.

One year earlier, in October 2019, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,321.

The figures, from NHS England, also show that a total of 4.44 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of October 2020.

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This compares with 4.45 million who were waiting at the end of October 2019.

A&E attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels of a year ago, with a total of 1.5 million attendances recorded in November 2020, down 31% from 2.1 million in November 2019.

NHS England said the fall is "likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response" - suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The year-on-year drop in A&E attendances of 31% in November compares with falls of 26% in October, 20% in September and 19% in August.

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month, down 19% from 559,556 in November 2019 to 451,800 in November 2020.

NHS England again said this is likely to be a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27% in October compared with a year ago.

232,487 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 317,992 in October 2019.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in September was also 27%, while in August the drop was 43%.

More than 350,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in October.

A total of 362,100 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy. The equivalent number waiting for more than six weeks in October 2019 was 33,200.

The number has fallen in recent months, however, after peaking at 571,500 in May 2020.