New NHS figures reveal that over 5,000 patients were not treated within the 28-day target in April; the highest figure in the last decade.
During the same period, nearly 75,000 NHS operations in England were postponed at the eleventh hour.
This is also a 10-year high according to official figures.
The Royal College of Surgeons has blamed the overwhelming pressure on Accident and Emergency departments, and suggested that shortages of staff, parents and general resources all contributed to the overall picture.
Regardless of the explanation, the figures are another indication of the growing pressure on the health service, and the extent to which it is struggling to cope.
NHS England figures indicate that 6.8% of patients waited more than 28 days to be treated after their cancelled operations in 2015-16.
These numbers do not include any patients affected by the recent strike action taken by junior doctors.
Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, csommented on the issue, suggesting that the figures are of great significance.
Marx believes that the picture provided by the official NHS figures is indicative of the fact that the health service is under the greatest pressure in its history.
“It is disappointing that the number of patients waiting for their cancelled operations to be rescheduled has hit the highest level in a decade. This is yet another indication of the pressure the NHS is under. Situations where patients have to wait longer for their treatment are highly stressful for them and their families and, in some cases, their condition could deteriorate.”
Marx also outlined some of the factors that had led to this undesirable situation as the Royal College sees it, and offered her view on what can be done to rectify the situation.
“There are likely to be a number of factors behind this rise that government and the NHS need to continue to tackle including pressures in emergency departments, staffing shortages, and lack of bed availability due to rising delayed transfers of care. Industrial action may not have helped but the underlying causes are likely to be more strongly related to the broader pressures the NHS faces.”
Responding to the figures, a spokesman from NHS England emphasised the proportion of operations being cancelled remains relatively low.
This figure is still under 1%, and thus the spokesman indicated the opinion of NHS England that there are some positives despite the negative headlines that the figures will undoubtedly generate.
“Hospitals should continue to ensure that every effort is made to reschedule cancelled operations as soon as possible, but we can clearly see the effects of delayed care and industrial action hampering their ability to do so towards the end of the year.”