Hospital ‘long waits’ hit five-year high

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The numbers of people waiting longer than they should for hospital care have hit a five-year high in England, figures show.

NHS England data for 2016-17 revealed 2.5m patients waited over four hours in A&E – up from 725,000 in 2011-12.

Those waiting over 62 days for cancer treatment topped 26,000 – nearly double the total five years ago.

Meanwhile, over 360,000 people have now waited over 18 weeks for an operation, compared to 160,000 five years ago.

Experts at the Health Foundation think-tank fear the performance could get even worse in the coming years.

Researcher Tim Gardner said: “Maintaining, let alone improving, the quality of care provided is going to be very difficult in the current financial climate.

“Funding for the NHS in England will need to increase if these hard won gains to the quality of patient care are to be upheld and built upon in the future.

“Waiting time targets for A&E, cancer, and consultant-led treatment are a useful barometer of pressure on the NHS.”

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