The numbers waiting went up in every region except Wessex and South Western. Although seven of the 14 NHS regions cut the numbers waiting more than a year, sharp increases in the other seven regions meant that overall the numbers waiting between one and two years jumped by 13.5 per cent to 64,232.
An extra pounds 12m pumped into waiting list initiatives between mid-February and the end of March produced a 13 per cent drop in those waiting more than a year, allowing the Department of Health to claim yesterday that for the past three months and for those waiting longest 'the figures are moving in the right direction'. The extra money, however, did not prevent a further 1 per cent rise over the three months from December to March in the numbers waiting less than a year, taking them over the one million mark for the first time.
David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said 'there must be a better approach to tackling waiting lists'.