Monthly data released by NHS England highlighted the challenge facing the service amid a backlog caused by medical professionals having to focus on battling the Covid pandemic.

According to the figures, 5.7 million people were on NHS England waiting lists at the end of August – the highest level since records began in August 2007 – while the wait time for admittance to accident and emergency (A&E) departments has risen above 12 hours, the highest point of any calendar month since August 2010.

NHS England is working to eliminate delays of more than two years for medical procedures by March 2022. Currently, 9,754 people are expecting to wait over two years, three times the level back in April.

Hip and knee replacements are the most impacted surgeries, having been slow to restart in 2021, as, often they are not as serious or life-changing as other procedures that are given priority.

Despite the delays caused by the pandemic, the NHS has urged people to seek medical help if they need it, even with the health service expected to struggle over the winter due to the dual impact of Covid and flu.

“Despite the busiest September on record, NHS staff have moved heaven and earth to make the best possible use of additional investment delivering millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations,” Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director stated.