NHS waiting lists in England have reached record highs of more than 7.6 million people. 

Data published by NHS England today (Thursday, August 10) revealed 7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June - the highest level since records began in 2007.

A total of 383,083 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of June.

Meanwhile around 7,177 patients are estimated to have been waiting more than 18 months.

These figures are both slightly down from the same data collected at the end of May.

The publication of the figures comes after the NHS announced that patients affected by backlogs could skip the queue at their local hospital if they are willing to travel to other parts of England.

Government vows to eliminate NHS wait lists

The Government and NHS England vowed to eliminate all waits of more than 18 months by April 2023 – excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer – with the aim of stopping waits of more than a year by March 2025.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made cutting waiting lists one of his priorities for 2023, pledging in January that “lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly”.

However, he has said strikes across the health service are making the task “more challenging”.

Industrial action has been ongoing since December 2022 in the NHS, leading to the postponement of almost 835,000 appointments.

Junior doctors are set to stage their fifth strike in the dispute on Friday, walking out for four days from 7am.

Consultants will strike for two days from August 24, and have threatened to walk out for a further 48 hours on September 19 if the Government continues to “refuse to agree to pay talks”.

What is being done to reduce wait lists in the NHS?

In an attempt to reduce these lists, the health service is extending the use of a “matching platform” where patients are “matched” with providers of the service they need outside their local area.

The system was initially launched in January for patients needing a hospital admission, but will now include cancer, diagnostic checks and outpatient appointments.

Hampshire Chronicle: NHS waiting lists in England are at a record high.NHS waiting lists in England are at a record high. (Image: PA)

Earlier this month the Government also revealed it would expand its use of private sector capacity in a bid to ease pressure on the NHS.

Thirteen new community diagnostic centres (CDCs) will open across England, eight of which will be privately run.

The facilities will carry out an additional 742,000 scans, checks and tests per year.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We must use every available resource to deliver life-saving checks to ease pressure on the NHS.”