NHS waiting lists have hit another record high of 7.1million and emergency care is slower than ever ahead of winter strikes.
Official figures reveal A&E and ambulance delays hit new record highs in October.
Nearly half of casualty patients visiting major hospitals waited longer than the four-hour target to be seen – 54.8 per cent.
And a record 43,792 sick Brits could not get a bed on a ward for at least 12 hours, up from 33,000 in the previous month.
Ambulance responses were the slowest since records began, with stroke and heart attack cases waiting one hour and a minute, on average – the target is 18 minutes.
Top priority calls waited nine minutes 56 seconds, up from 9:19 in September.
The wait list for planned treatment rose for the 28th month in a row, to 7.07million.
It comes as nurses at more than 100 hospitals in England have voted to strike from next month in a bitter pay row.
NHS bosses said “the priority will be to try to minimise patient harm” during the walkouts – but figures show people are already suffering before the strikes have begun.
Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Standards are unacceptably poor for both patients and staff and this will deteriorate further over the winter months.
“All parts of the NHS are unquestionably struggling.”
Miriam Deakin, policy director at NHS Providers, added: “There is no let-up in the pressure on overstretched emergency and ambulance services.
“Staff continue to work flat-out and have slashed the longest waits for treatment as well as exceeding pre-pandemic activity for diagnostics, cancer and mental health.
“But unprecedented levels of demand, much higher than before the pandemic, continue to put a huge strain on A&E and ambulance services as the NHS faces its toughest ever winter.
“To ease pressure on the NHS the government must act now to fix chronic staff shortages and an underfunded social care system.”
NHS medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “There is no doubt October has been a challenging month for staff who are now facing Covid, flu and record pressure on emergency services.
“More people attended A&E or required the most urgent ambulance callout than any other October.
“Pressure on emergency services remains high as a result of more than 13,000 beds taken up each day by people who no longer need to be in hospital.
“But staff have kept their foot on the accelerator to get the backlog down with 18-month waiters down by three fifths on last year.”
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