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More than 680,000 patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment

Government’s treatment target has not been met since February 2016

More than 680,000 patients are now waiting more than 18 weeks for NHS elective treatment, figures show.

This represents an increase of more than a quarter from a year ago, when the number stood at 540,000.

Of the patients on the waiting list at the end of October, 84.7% had been waiting less than 18 weeks. This means the government’s target to ensure 92% of patients wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment for elective procedures, such as hip and knee operations, has not been met since February 2016.

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said the organisation looks forward to working with the new government “to help fulfil their manifesto commitments to bring down operating waiting times and get the best possible value for money for the additional funding for the NHS”.

The NHS England data also reveals it has been more than three years since any of the flagship cancer treatment targets were hit. Across all nine targets, the last 12 months recorded the lowest proportion of patients seen or treated within the timeframes since records began.

The two-week wait target was breached again in October (91.4% against the target of 93%), with around 19,000 people with suspected cancer waiting too long to see a consultant following an urgent referral from their GP.

The 62-day target was also breached, resulting in over 3,000 people waiting longer than two months to start cancer treatment after being urgently referred with suspected cancer by their GP.

Only 77.1% of patients in England started treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer, against the target of 85%.