The NHS waiting list for planned care has grown to over 3 million, despite a drive to admit more patients for treatment over the summer months.

It follows several months of intense pressure from government for trusts to treat increased numbers of long waiting patients and to cut lists. It announced a £250m fund to pay for this in June.

However, latest data published today shows that despite a marked increase in the number of patients treated, the waiting list jumped from 3.07m in July to 3.13m in August.

The waiting list has grown steadily since August 2009 when there were just under 2.5m people waiting for treatment.

In August 653 more patients were admitted per working day than in the same month last year.

However, this did not bring down the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks, which instead rose by 7 per cent.

Only 87.9 per cent of admitted patients began treatment within 18 weeks – against the national target of 90 per cent.

The government announced in the summer a “managed breach” of the flagship elective waiting time targets, but officials had hoped they would be met again by September. This now looks highly unlikely to be achieved, and national officials have changed their position to say targets should be met from December.

Waiting times expert Rob Findlay told HSJ the increased activity in August had failed to cut the number of patients waiting for long periods of time.

He said: “It looks as if admissions did increase but it has not had the desired effect of reducing the number of long waiters on the list.” There were 510 patients who had waited over a year for treatment in August.

NHS England director of NHS operations and delivery Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky said: “Over the summer the NHS has been working hard to deliver as many additional operations as possible to treat patients who have waited longest.  Prioritising these patients means the NHS will undershoot the waiting time standard but we expect all trusts to be back on track later year.” 

There were fewer trusts who failed to report data in August compared to previous months. Three trusts did not submit any waiting times figures – Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, Heart of England and Royal Berkshire Foundation Trusts. Royal Free London Foundation Trust did not report any data for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust, which was taken over in July.

Around half of the increased list between July and August was due to Walsall Healthcare Trust reporting the size of its waiting list for August.

Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust and Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust both failed to submit data on the number of patients waiting to start treatment.

According to NHS England estimates based on the last time these trusts reported the total waiting list “may have been just under 3.3m patients”.

Waiting list grows despite £250m government push