Almost 4.5 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the worst month for medical backlogs since records began.
The president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England has said it shows the “calamitous impact” of coronavirus on waiting times.
A total of 4.46 million were on waiting lists, which compares to 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.45 million in October that year. The previous highest number in the data which goes back to August 2007.
The NHS England figures also show that the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 192,169 in November 2020 – the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008.
In November 2019, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,398.
The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27% in November compared with a year ago.
Some 222,810 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 303,193 in November 2019.
The year-on-year decrease recorded in September and October was also 27%, while in August the drop was 43%.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Today’s figures show the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations.
“Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November. However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.
“A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown.
“When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment.”
Additionally, over 5,000 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England in the week to January 10, new figures show.
A total of 5,513 delays of over 60 minutes were recorded across all acute trusts, according to figures published by NHS England.
It is the highest weekly figure so far this winter, up slightly from 5,318 delays in the previous week.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number for an individual trust in the week to January 10 (291 delays of more than 60 minutes), followed by Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (254) and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (180).
A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.
Figures also show a further 9,267 patients waited between 30 and 60 minutes to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff.
This is again the highest weekly figure so far this winter.
Overall, it means nearly 15,000 patients waited at least half an hour to be transferred from ambulance teams to A&E staff in England in the week to January 10.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust had the highest number (780 delays of at least 30 minutes), followed by London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (372) and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (360).