ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry on how the NHS waiting list crisis is affecting patients and staff
The NHS waiting list in England the longest it has been since records began, the latest figures have shown, but the health secretary has warned it's likely to rise even further.
The number of patients waiting for treatment surged by 200,000 in the month of June alone, raising the list to to 5.5 million people - the longest its been since August 2007.
The numbers lay bare the struggle hospitals face in catching up with non-coronavirus related care, and the situation could get even worse - it's been estimated that 14 million people could be waiting for treatment by next autumn.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted the waiting list is likely to rise further, however, when people start gradually returning for treatment as the pandemic begins to ease.
The health secretary said: "We estimate there's probably some seven million people that ordinarily would have come forward to the NHS that stayed away, understandably, during the height of the pandemic.
Sajid Javid admits the NHS waiting list is likely to grow further:
"We want those people to come back. I don't know how many will come back but, even if half of them came to the NHS - and can I just stress I really want people that need to be seen by the NHS to know the NHS is there for them and they should come forward - but as they do I think waiting lists will rise because there will be a huge increase in demand. "
But the latest figures didn't just provide all negative news - the number of people having to wait longer than 18 weeks for care dropped by almost 25,000 while those waiting more than year fell by almost 32,000.
And the average waiting times for elective care is down for the fourth month in a row to 10.4 weeks – more than seven weeks lower than at the same time last year.
The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment was 304,803 in June - down from 336,733 the previous month but around six times the number from a year earlier, which was 50,536.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: “NHS staff have made effective use of the additional resources made available to us to recover services which were inevitably disrupted during the pandemic, and we are continuing to tackle the Covid backlog.
“This has come as services have seen some of the highest ever number of patients coming forward for care during the summer months, all at the same time as delivering the biggest and most precise vaccine roll-out in our history.
“I would urge anyone who needs NHS to come forward through NHS 111 Online so that staff can help you with the best option for your care.”
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Progress in recovering services has been made despite "hospitals experiencing one of its busiest summers ever", the NHS said, with 70,000 A&E attendances a day in July, almost 20,000 more each day than this time last year.
But the NHS waiting list in England could rocket even further, according to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
It said 80% return over the next year, with the NHS operating at 90% of its 2019 capacity this year and next, then "waiting lists would soar to 14 million by the autumn of 2022".
There are currently 5,912 people being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals in the United Kingdom.