Trusts have admitted a ‘record breaking’ number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment, according to the latest data.

NHS England has published the consultant led waiting list figures for March. They show a 28 per cent increase in the number of long waiting patients treated compared to the same month last year.

There were 59,664 patients who had waited over 18 weeks before beginning treatment in March, compared to 46,441 in March 2014.

Waiting list expert Rob Findlay said the number of long waiting patients admitted was “record breaking”. He concluded it was the highest percentage of long waiting patients admitted in any month since April 2008.

Trusts made the most of the “managed breach” and only 86.8 per cent of admitted patients began treatment within 18 weeks.

The overall waiting list has shot back up to 3.1 million, after four months of a drop in numbers.

Rob Findlay

The number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment is at its highest since April 2008, Rob Findlay said

It jumped from 2.9 million in February to 3.1 million in March. It has grown by 3 per cent compared with March 2014.

In the same months last year the waiting list stayed roughly the same size between February and March, at 2.9 million.

However, in previous years it has grown between these two months, in keeping with the traditional pattern where the list shrinks between August and December and grows throughout the rest of the year.

HSJ previously reported that this pattern had disappeared and the waiting list was continually growing.

Heart of England Foundation Trust has began reporting its waiting list data again, after months of non-reporting, which will have increased the overall waiting list size.

However, University Hospitals of South Manchester Foundation Trust did not report its waiting list data for the first time.

NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority have continued to waive penalties for missing the referral to treatment targets. They have given trusts until the end of 2014-15 to treat the longest waiting patients. This grace period has been extended several times.