The number of people waiting for a routine hospital treatment in England soared to a record high of 5.12 million at the end of April due to disruption to health care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Health Service (NHS) reported on Thursday.
According to the NHS, more than 436,000 patients were waiting longer than 52 weeks for hospital treatments by the end of March this year, up from 387,000 in February, in an increase of almost 50,000 in a single month.
The latest official data underlines the challenge the England health service has faced since the pandemic struck in the UK, with hospitals forced to cancel thousands of routine operations to treat over 400,000 COVID-19 patients.
The NHS said, however, that with cases receding as a result of the vaccination campaign, the number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals was up 6 percent in March 2021 compared with a year earlier.
Another sign of improvement was that the average wait time for operations fell last month from 12.6 weeks to 11.6 weeks, while in July, 2020 it was almost 20 weeks.
Commenting on the report, NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said that despite the extensive disruption caused by the pandemic, it was "encouraging" to see that routine operations, cancer treatments and mental health care are now rebounding sharply.