Trusts have gone beyond the government target to treat 100,000 extra patients waiting over 16 weeks for treatment.

The overall number of extra treatments performed on patients waiting over 16 weeks was just under 143,000 between July and December. This included more than 36,000 admitted patients treated and over 106,000 outpatient treatments compared to the same period in 2013, HSJ analysis shows.

The government announced a £250m fund and an amnesty on meeting referral to treatment targets in June last year to encourage trusts to treat the longest waiting patients.

However, activity levels differed dramatically between the months, with a big push to treat 68,000 more patients on average in September and December, but a drop in treatments in August, October and November.

Director of policy at the King’s Fund Richard Murray said trusts should be congratulated for hitting the target.

However, he added that the sector is “still sitting on a 3.2 million waiting list”, which was “quite eye watering”.

He added: “Despite the fact that performance improved, some of the long waiters jumped in December and the numbers still waiting declined and my guess is that’s the ordinary admissions, the people who need to be admitted overnight. The hips and the knees; it’s not the cataracts.”

Mr Murray said there may have been an extra effort to treat outpatients to boost numbers.

He said: “I wondered if what they did is turn the heat up under the day cases, the slightly easier cases, and that’s how you limbo under the target… the ordinary admissions, the ones that need a bed overnight, they actually fell. I don’t think it’s much of a jump to think that some of the long waiters are sitting in that group.

“You can’t keep on running really quick on the day cases and not dealing with the other group. They don’t go away, they just build up. That’s where over the next couple of months we might see some difficulty over that.”

Government ups pressure to bring down waiting list