MORE than 20,000 people were waiting for routine treatment at Barnsley Hospital in April - as the NHS faced ‘the most disruption industrial action’ in its history.

A think tank has warned the government is ‘moving in the opposite direction’ from its goal of bringing waiting lists down.

NHS England figures show 21,550 patients were waiting for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust at the end of April - up from 20,878 in March, and 17,060 in April 2022.

Of those, 180 had been waiting for longer than a year.

The median waiting time from referral at an NHS Trust to treatment at Barnsley Hospital was ten weeks at the end of April - up from nine weeks in March.

Nationally, 7.4 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of April.

Dr Sarah Scobie, acting director of research at the Nuffield Trust think tank said: “Yet another month of hitting a record high for the NHS waiting list will be very worrying for the government and shows it is moving in the opposite direction from its ambition to bring down waiting lists by 2025.

“The NHS and its staff are throwing more and more resources at recovering the backlog as the summer months approach, but challenges, including industrial action and staff absences, make keeping up with the weight of demand incredibly difficult.”

Separate figures show 1.6 million patients in England were waiting for a key diagnostic test in April - the same as in March.

At Barnsley Hospital, 3,035 patients were waiting for one of ten standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at this time.

Of them, 327 - or 11 per cent - had been waiting for at least six weeks.

Other figures from NHS England show that of 40 patients urgently referred by the NHS who were treated at Barnsley Hospital in April, 36 were receiving cancer treatment within two months of their referral.

A month previously - when 53 patients were referred - 41 were treated within 62 days.

In April 2022, 32 patients were treated within this period, out of 47 that were referred.

Cancer Research UK’s director of evidence and implementation Naser Turabi said: “Today’s data shows that all cancer waiting time targets in England have been missed and are amongst the worst on record.

“Despite the tireless work of NHS staff, people affected by cancer continue to experience unacceptable delays for vital diagnosis and treatment.

“We need to see urgent political leadership and action on cancer, and urge the UK government to publish the long-awaited workforce plan for England.”

NHS England said staff are continuing to make progress on recovering routine services despite the it facing ‘the most disruptive industrial action in its history in April’, with four days of strikes by junior doctors resulting in more than 195,000 appointments and procedures having to be rescheduled.

Accident and emergency units across the country also experienced the busiest May on record.