The number of patients on English NHS waiting fists rose by 2.8% in the first quarter of this year to 1.28 million, with the largest rises seen in the West Midlands and North Thames areas.
Since the end of March last year, the total number of patients waiting for NHS hospital admission has risen by 12%, and the number waiting over one year has more than doubled.
The figures were unveiled days after health secretary Frank Dobson announced the allocation of an extra £65m towards waiting fist reduction in a bid to fulfil the Government’s manifesto pledges. The money is part of the extra £500m NHS spend announced in the March Budget and will be used to improve aspects of primary, community and mental health and social services.
Health authorities have been told to reduce the numbers of patients waiting for hospital treatment by between 9% and 18% by next March, depending on location.
Department of Health officials stressed the overall rise in waiting fist numbers concealed falls in the number of people waiting for long periods. The number of patients waiting for over one year fell by half of one per cent in the first quarter and no English residents had been waiting for more than 18 months.
Four Welsh patients at the Royal Shrewsbury NHS Trust had waited over 18 months but were not subject to the English Patient’s Charter guarantee, the Department of Health said.
It was also claimed that a fifth of all patients on waiting lists have now been given a date for their admission.