The King’s Fund 'think tank' warned the waiting list for planned care in England is continuing to climb towards levels not seen since the waiting times crisis in the 1990s.
NHS England figures show 34,444 patients were waiting for non-urgent consultant-led care at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust at the end of August – 3% more than 33,575 the month before.
The figure was also an increase of 38% on the 24,902 on the waiting list in August last year.
Across England, the number of people waiting for treatment rose by 109,000 from 5.6 million in July to 5.7 million in August – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, said the upcoming Spending Review must address the pile-up of maintenance issues with NHS buildings and staffing challenges within the service, or “risk undermining efforts to reduce the waiting list backlog”.
He said: “The Government has announced significant, additional funding to support NHS services, but hasn’t yet delivered on promises to increase capital investment in buildings and equipment, or provided the funding required to train and develop the staff needed to address chronic workforce shortages."
NHS rules state that patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.
Across England, the number of people waiting more than two years to start treatment rose to 9,754 in August, more than three times the 2,722 people who were waiting longer than two years in April.
But the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment fell for the fifth month in a row to 292,138.
NHS England said the health service carried out 1.1 million elective procedures in August despite admitting 23,000 covid patients, while major A&Es treated more than 1.4 million people during September.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, added: “There is no doubt the NHS is running hot, with the highest ever number of patients seen in A&E in September, 14 times as many covid patients in hospital compared to the same month last year and a record 999 ambulance calls.
“But despite the busiest September on record, NHS staff have moved heaven and earth to make the best possible use of additional investment delivering millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations.
“That is why it is really important people do not delay seeking help from the NHS if they feel unwell.”