ALMOST 200,000 emergency patients were forced to wait more than four hours for treatment last winter, which is the worst winter average on record, figures showed yesterday.
Official health service data showed that a total of 195,764 A&E patients waited for admission beyond the NHS standard of four hours to be admitted between December 2016 and February 2017.
The figure is the highest since records began and a sharp increase on the previous winter, when the four-hour target was missed for 134,576 patients.
Extreme waiting times shot up to a record level, with nearly 2,000 patients forced to wait at least 12 hours, compared to 375 the year before.
The NHS data reflects a crisis in demand as A&E departments were forced to close their doors to 478 ambulances this winter, compared with an average of 249 over the previous three winters.
And the number of days lost to so-called “bed-blockers” also hit a record high in England last winter, rising to 577,195.
Cancer referral rates were at their second-lowest level on record, February figures show.
Under 80 per cent of patients were seen within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, below the health service benchmark of 85 per cent.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Yet again, these shocking figures present stark evidence of the ongoing crisis facing our NHS.
“Month after month, the Conservatives are missing key targets for cancer, ambulance response times and A&E waiting times.
“Hospitals remain overstretched and understaffed, and morale among our hardworking staff continues to be challenged by the unprecedented pressures they regularly face.”