NHS waiting times for hospital treatment have reached their highest level for three years.
One in seven patients is waiting longer than 18 weeks, the maximum laid down in the NHS constitution, according to the King's Fund.
The rise reflects the effect of the NHS spending squeeze,which is putting increasing pressure on health budgets. The NHS has to find £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015 and managers are resorting to desperate measures to achieve it, including discharging patients sooner, cutting drug prescribing and closing wards.
In February 2011, nearly 15 per cent of inpatients waited more than 18 weeks for treatment compared with 6 per cent in 2009.
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