Waiting times for NHS treatment in East and North Herts are at record levels, new data has revealed.

The data, for the end of June 2023, shows that 63,196 patients were waiting to begin treatment at hospitals run by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust - the highest number that has yet been recorded.

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust runs the Lister Hospital in Stevenage and the New QEII hospital in Welwyn Garden City.

Fewer than half of patients were waiting less than 18 weeks from their referral to the beginning of their treatment, well below the NHS's operational standard of 92 per cent.

The percentage of people waiting less than 18 weeks has decreased since last year - in August 2022, 56.6 per cent of patients referred for treatment with the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust were waiting less than 18 weeks.

The number of people waiting for treatment to begin has increased across England more widely too.

7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June - the highest number since the NHS began keeping equivalent records in August 2007.

Labour politicians are, in part, blaming the government's failure to prevent strikes for the rise in the number of people waiting for treatment.

Junior doctors have been on strike five times this year, while consultant doctors went on strike in July.

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Before the most recent junior doctors strike, around 778,000 operations and appointments had been affected by the strikes.

According to the British Medical Association, real terms take-home pay for consultants and junior doctors has been cut by 35 per cent and 26 per cent respectively since 2008/09.

The BMA is asking for junior doctors to receive a pay rise of 35 per cent, to bring them back to the real-terms pay level of 2008/09, but the government has offered an increase of just below six per cent.

Cllr Elizabeth Dennis, North Herts Labour & Co-operative leader, said: “We call on all sides to meet urgently to end these strikes.

"It is frankly negligent of the Secretary of State, Steve Barclay, to have refused to have met with NHS consultants and their BMA representatives since they voted to strike.

"This is about more than fair pay, this is about the working conditions that junior doctors and other hospital staff have been putting up with for a long time.

"These working conditions are putting patient lives in danger.

"If the government have given up on trying to govern they should step aside and allow Labour to start clearing up the mess the Tories have created in the NHS and across public services.”

The Labour party has said that it will create 7,500 more medical school places and 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements per year, funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status.

Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, Kevin Bonavia, added: "I'm hearing more and more from people on the doorsteps of Stevenage (as well as my own family) about horrendous waits for all kinds of NHS treatment.

"Recently I joined Keir Starmer and Labour's health lead, Wes Streeting, at a meeting with junior doctors and nurses at the Lister Hospital and we heard of many tough experiences of overwork and staff shortages.

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"Labour plans to end 13 years of Tory government neglect by requiring people with non-dom tax status who live in this country to pay tax here and use the income to fund the training of a new generation of doctors and nurses. This change of direction can't come soon enough."

Alex Clarkson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, said: "I would like to thank our resilient doctors, nurses, and NHS staff at the Lister Hospital for the incredible work they are doing in often difficult circumstances.

"The government is reducing long waits, treating more patients, and ensuring NHS activity is higher than it was before the pandemic.

"The number of patients [across England] waiting more than 18 months has reduced by over 90 per cent since the September 2021 peak and two-year waits for treatment have been virtually eliminated.

"In April 2023, the NHS treated nearly 40,000 (3 per cent) more patients than in April 2022. 

"Whilst the latest waiting list figures are disappointing, they reflect the current challenges facing our NHS.

"The health service is still recovering from the Covid pandemic, and that recovery is not being helped by militant doctors’ unions, encouraged by Labour MPs, recklessly choosing to strike.

"Our residents need to be aware that in Wales, where the Labour party have been in government since 1999 and is responsible for the NHS, patients are twice as likely to be on a waiting list compared to patients in Conservative-run England.

"Soaring numbers of patients in Wales are seeking care in English hospitals. Keir Starmer say Labour-run Wales is a blueprint - but this is the reality.

"Labour talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk when it comes to improving health care."

A spokesperson for East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust said: “We are sorry for any delays patients are having with their treatment and we are working hard to reduce waiting times.

“Our waiting lists are under constant review and we continue to prioritise those with the most urgent clinical need, for example people with cancer.”

Bim Afolami MP was contacted for comment on this story.