What the latest NHS performance figures show

Ambulance response times have lengthened slightly and a key cancer target has been missed, while the size of the waiting list for treatment has gone up.

Here are the main figures from the latest NHS performance data for England:

– Overall waiting list

The waiting list for routine hospital treatment has risen for the first time in seven months.

An estimated 7.57 million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of April, relating to 6.33 million patients – up slightly from 7.54 million treatments and 6.29 million patients at the end of March.

The list hit a record high in September 2023 with 7.77 million treatments and 6.50 million patients.

It has been on an upwards path for much of the last 10 years, passing three million in 2014, four million in 2017, five million in 2021 and seven million in 2022.

In February 2020, the last full month before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the list stood at 4.57 million.

A graph showing the waiting list for NHS treatment in England, which currently stands at 7.57 million
(PA Graphics)

Since February 2024, treatments by community services are no longer included in the data, meaning the overall number of incidences of people waiting for treatment in England is likely to be higher than the latest figures.

Community services cover treatments and procedures that are delivered mainly in people’s homes, as well as care homes, clinics, schools, other care facilities and community hospitals.

– Long waits for treatment

Some 5,013 patients had been waiting more than 18 months to start routine treatment at the end of April, up from 4,770 in March.

The Government and NHS England set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April 2023, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer.

There were 50,397 patients who had been waiting more than 65 weeks to start treatment at the end of April, up from 48,968 in March.

The target to eliminate all waits of over 65 weeks is now September 2024, having previously been March 2024.

Meanwhile, 302,589 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of April, down from 309,300 at the end of March.

The Government and NHS England have set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

A graph showing the number of patients in England waiting more than a year and a half to start hospital treatment from April 2023 to April 2024
(PA Graphics)

– Accident & emergency waits

Some 42,555 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in May from a decision to admit to actually being admitted, up slightly from 42,078 in April.

The record high for a calendar month is 54,573, which occurred in December 2022.

The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission also increased, from 134,344 in April to 138,770 in May.

Meanwhile, 74.0% of patients were seen within four hours in A&Es last month, down from 74.4% in April.

The NHS recovery plan set a target of March this year for 76% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

– Cancer referrals

A total of 73.5% of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer in April were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out within 28 days.

This is down from 77.3% the previous month and is therefore below the target of 75%.

The proportion of patients in England waiting no longer than 62 days in April from an urgent suspected cancer referral or consultant upgrade to their first definitive treatment for cancer was 66.6%, down from 68.7% in March.

The target is 85%.

GPs in England made 260,108 urgent cancer referrals in April, up from 254,594 in March and also up year-on-year from 218,324 in April 2023.

– Cancer diagnostic waiting list

The number of patients in England waiting longer than 62 days since an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer was 16,811 in the week ending April 28 2024, up from 14,916 in the week ending March 31.

The figure was nearly 34,000 at the end of September 2022.

Most of the patients included in this total do not have cancer and are waiting for a diagnostic test, while a minority do have cancer and are waiting for treatment.

The Government and NHS England set the ambition of returning this figure to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.

The average weekly figure for the pre-pandemic month of February 2020 (covering the four weeks to March 1) was 13,463.

– Ambulance response times

The average response time in May for ambulances dealing with the most urgent incidents, defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, was eight minutes and 16 seconds.

This is up slightly from eight minutes and 10 seconds in April and is above the target standard response time of seven minutes.

Ambulances took an average of 32 minutes and 44 seconds last month to respond to emergency calls such as heart attacks, strokes and sepsis.

This is up from 30 minutes and 22 seconds in April, while the target is 18 minutes.

Response times for urgent calls, such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes, averaged exactly two hours in May, up from one hour, 42 minutes and 13 seconds in April.