There were more people than ever before waiting for routine operations on the NHS in England in June, official figures show.
The government statistics show that 4.4 million were on the waiting list. That is the highest since modern records began, in 2007.
The official target is for 92% of patients to start treatment within 18 weeks. But only 86.3% did, meaning 600,000 people had to wait longer.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the number of patients “languishing” on waiting lists remains at an “utterly unacceptable” level. Health think tank the Nuffield Trust said the figures showed “relentless pressure throughout the whole system”.
It is thought that one factor for the rise in waits in recent months has been a dispute over doctors’ pension tax relief, which has seen some consultants reluctant to take on extra shifts to help clear the backlog of operations.