Overall 87 percent of patients who required hospital admission were seen within 18 weeks up to February – short of the target to see 90 per cent within in this timeframe. / Getty Images

Official figures reveal 40,000 people had to wait more than 18 weeks for treatment starting in February

The NHS in England has missed its waiting times target for routine operations for the second time this year, as official figures reveal 40,000 people had to wait more than 18 weeks for treatment starting in February.

Overall 87 percent of patients who required hospital admission were seen within 18 weeks up to February – short of the target to see 90 per cent within in this timeframe.

It is the worst monthly performance against the target in seven years. The average wait for a routine operation is now 10 weeks after being referred for treatment – also the highest in seven years.

Labour said the figures were evidence of an NHS “gone backwards” under the Coalition government, but the Conservatives pointed to successes in cutting the number of patients who wait for up to a year for treatment.

 

The 18-week ‘referral to treatment’ target is one of the key measures of NHS performance. The Government pumped an extra £250m into the NHS in summer last year after the target slipped. Ministers asked hospitals to focus their efforts on those patients who had already endured very long waits – admitting that this would lead to a “managed breach” of the 18-week target.

The latest figures are for patients who started their treatment in February. Labour said the 39,466 who had endured a wait of more than 18 weeks was twice the equivalent number for May 2010, when the Coalition came to power.

“Waiting lists are at a seven-year high and thousands are facing that old Tory choice: wait longer in pain or pay to go private,” said their Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham.

A Conservative spokesman pointed out that overall there were fewer patients on long-term waiting lists.

“'We are proud that this Government has all but eradicated the scandal we inherited of people waiting over a year for an operation,” the spokesman said.

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