A historic number of people turned to the NHS for emergency care in July as the country found itself in the midst of a sweltering heatwave.
Data published on Thursday revealed the health service in England faced the biggest pressures since records began in 2010, with more than 2.17 million A&E attendances recorded.
The figures represents a spike of 4% on June and were almost 5% higher than those reported for the previous year.
Meanwhile, the number of A&E patients seen within the NHS’ target of four hours fell by a percentage point to 89.3%, with 147 people forced to wait more than 12 hours for care.
Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders, said: “Only this government could deliver winter crisis levels of performance during the hottest summer in decades.
“Patients have faced an unbearable summer meltdown in services as ministers left the NHS underprepared for the extreme weather yet again,” he continued.
Temperatures reached 35.1C in the UK last month, just 1.2C off the country’s all-time record temperature for July.
Madders added: “When the government finally brings forward its long term plan for the NHS, ministers must explain how they will restore world class standards for patients after eight years of austerity and neglect.”
Professor John Appleby, chief economist for the Nuffield Trust, said: “July was the most pressured summer month for A&E departments in recent history, showing that there’s no doubt this summer’s heatwave has caused severe strain on the NHS.
“It is usual for A&E attendances to spike during the summer, but this year they were the highest since monthly reporting began in 2010,” he continued.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "Our NHS staff faced record A&E attendances and unusually hot weather conditions throughout June and July - but thanks to their hard work and dedication, every day in July just over 2,200 more patients were seen in four hours in A&E compared to the same time last year, and the number of patients waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment has reduced by almost 15,000 since 2010.
"For this year 2018/19, the government has provided the NHS with an additional £1.6 billion to support and improve A&E and elective care performance."