The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment has risen to a record high.
A total of 4.95 million people were waiting to start NHS hospital treatment at the end of March – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Data from NHS England also showed that the number of people having to wait more than a year to start hospital treatment stood at 436,127 in March.
This is the highest number for any calendar month since August 2007, when the figure was 578,682.
In March 2020, the number having to wait more than a year to start treatment was significantly lower at 3,097.
It comes as health leaders have called for a review of social-distancing rules across the NHS to help tackle the waiting list backlog.
In a letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, health leaders asked for increased investment so the NHS can grasp a “summer of opportunity” and see as many patients as possible in the next few months.
NHS England said the health service had seen almost a quarter of a million people with suspected cancer in March as services “began to bounce back” after the peak of the winter Covid wave.
More than 230,000 people were checked in March even though 12,000 seriously ill patients with Covid required hospital treatment, it said.