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139,000: The number of patients waiting a year for hospital treatment amid pandemic

THE list of patients waiting for a year to begin hospital treatment has spiralled amid the virus crisis.

More than 139,000 had been waiting more than 52 weeks in September, latest NHS England figures show.

That is the most since the same month in 2008 and compares with only 1,305 in September last year.

A total of 1.72million patients waited more than 18 weeks to start treatment, down from 1.96million in August but well up year-on-year from 672,112.

Meanwhile, A&Es remain quieter, with 1.6million people seeking help last month compared with 2.2million in October 2019. NHS England said the fall was ‘likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response’ — suggesting that people are staying away out of fear of the virus.

‘Despite rapidly rising Covid hospitalisations, cancer services are now back at pre-pandemic levels,’ a spokesman said.

‘GP appointments are running ahead of this time last year, and hospitals have made particular progress in bringing back overnight elective operations.

‘But it is clear that where there are higher levels of Covid we are seeing an impact on routine non-urgent care, so the public can play their part by continuing to help stop the spread of the virus.’

The NHS was back to 80 per cent of overnight planned operations at the end of October, 100 per cent of CT scans and 88 per cent of MRIs.

Treatment is back to 94 per cent of normal levels in the south-east but only 74 per cent in the north-west.

A total of 199,801 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in September, up from 195,196 the year before, after drops of up to 21 per cent in the summer.

■ TEST and Trace is continuing to struggle to reach more than 60 per cent of those who have been in close contact with coronavirus patients, new data has shown. Just 60.4 per cent of contacts were reached in England in the week to November 4, government figures said yesterday, up from 60.2 per cent the previous week. But a high of 85 per cent of those who tested positive were contacted, up from 84.1 per cent.