Number of people waiting for hospital treatment rises to record 4.5 million in England

  • Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment has risen to a new record high.

A total of 4.59 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of January 2021, according to figures from NHS England.

This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment stood at 304,044 in January 2021 – the highest number for any calendar month since January 2008.

One year earlier, in January 2020, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,643.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 54% in January 2021 compared with a year earlier.

Some 139,378 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, compared with 304,888 in January 2020.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in December 2020 was 25%, while in November the drop was 27%.

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Meanwhile, A&E attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels of a year ago. A total of 1.3 million attendances were recorded in February 2021, down from 2 million in February 2020. After adjusting for the leap year in 2020, NHS England said attendances were down year-on-year by 33%. NHS England said the drop is “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

'I have some really bad, dark days'

Robert Martinez told ITV News he has had to stop working because of the pain in his knees.

He has been on the waiting list for knee replacement surgery since October 2019, having suffered with arthritis since 2017.

After a partial surgery on his right knee in October last year, he is still waiting for an operation on his left knee, which gives him daily and debilitating pain.

"It has impacted on my life quite considerably, especially the past year," he said.

"I loved gardening… days out, just general things.

"I have to think twice about what I have to do because I have to literally get through a pain threshold."