Almost one third of all patients in England who have needed hospital treatment for Covid since the pandemic began were admitted in January.
Hospitals treated a total of 242,307 patients who were confirmed to have Covid last year.
That compares with 101,956 in January 2021, new NHS figures revealed on Thursday show. That’s 29.6% of the total patients treated up to the end of the month.
The data show the extent of the pressure on the NHS during the latest wave.
On top of treating coronavirus patients, the NHS completed more than six million elective treatments in 2020, while hospitals carried out more than two cancer procedures for every patient they treated for the virus.
In all, there were more than 18.7 million A&E attendances.
Cancer services have continued to recover, the new figures show, with 25,199 people starting treatment in December, 555 more than in the same month the previous year. And following an NHS campaign, to encourage people to come forward for help, 200,940 people were referred for cancer checks, 13,129 more than December 2019.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “While the world’s attention has rightly been on Covid, NHS staff have worked extremely hard to provide essential services for those patients who need them, including 280,000 treatments for cancer patients along with millions of routine operations.
“Even in January, when hospitals admitted almost a third of all the Covid patients they have treated during the pandemic, they were treating twice as many patients with other conditions as they did for those with the virus over the month.
“But the NHS remains under significant pressure so it is vital that everyone continues to do all they can to stop the spread of the virus by staying at home and following the expert ‘hands, face, space’ guidance.”
While the NHS was treating increasing numbers of Covid patients during the winter wave, new data show average waiting times for non-urgent surgery fell by more than 40% between July and the end of the year.
But, with hospitals still treating over a thousand more patients with Covid than they did at the peak of the first wave, NHS leaders urge the public to remain vigilant and follow the official advice on slowing the spread of the virus.
The NHS is currently treating more people with Covid in critical care than hospitals did for all conditions this time last year.
Meanwhile, the number of people waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England is at its highest level since 2008, new figures show.
Data from NHS England shows 224,205 people in December had been waiting more than a year – the highest number for any calendar month since April 2008.
One year earlier, in December 2019, the figure was just 1,467.
The figures also show that a total of 4.52 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Tim Mitchell, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Covid-19 continues to take an enormous toll on hundreds of thousands of people across the country left waiting for an operation.
“The number of people waiting over a year for their treatment is now 150 times higher than in 2019.
“Many are waiting ‘in limbo’, reliant on painkillers, and unable to get on with day-to-day family life or work.
“These figures show the impact on the NHS of lifting the November national lockdown.
“By Christmas, some surgeons were facing the awful job of calling up patients waiting for cancer operations, to tell them they weren’t sure when they would have a bed or the staff in place to operate.”