HOSPITAL waiting lists have hit another record high of 6.5million people.
Top medics hailed progress on cutting the longest waits and ambulance delays but warn there is no end in sight for crippling NHS pressures.
NHS figures show the number of people due operations in England has risen by 2.2m since the Covid crisis began.
Packed hospitals are partly to blame, with 93 per cent of beds full and half of those taken by “bed blockers” who are fit to go home but can’t get care.
Two-year waits for surgery have halved since February, to around 9,000, but one-year delays have risen to 323,093 – the highest for 11 months.
Tim Mitchell, of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel for people who have been waiting excessively long for a planned hospital treatment.
“However, there are still big challenges ahead.”
NHS unions are begging for more staff across the health service.
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Miriam Deakin, from NHS Providers, added: “With significant delays in discharging patients who are medically fit to go home, there are pressures across the health and care system.”
Ms Deakin hailed the reduction in the longest waits and the number of people waiting for scans.
Ambulance response times and A&E waits have also improved in the face of near-record demand but they remain well outside official targets.
Some 2.2m people went to A&E in May, which was higher than any time since 2019.
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Dr Katherine Henderson, chief of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “A marginal improvement in performance data is positive but should not be cause for celebration.
“The data remain grim reading and there is no real sign of this crisis easing.”
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Patricia Marquis, director at the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Lives are at risk as ambulances queue for hours and beds remain full.”
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, said: “Our hard-working staff are making significant progress but there is no doubt the NHS still faces pressures.”
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