NHS waiting lists have hit a new record high, with more people facing long waits, data shows.
Figures for the NHS in England show 7.75 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of August, up from 7.68 million in July.
This is the highest number since records began in August 2007 and comes despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying cutting waiting lists is one of his priorities.
The government said ongoing strikes by doctors are having a significant impact on the ability to bring down waits.
The data also shows 8,998 people in England were waiting more than 18 months to start routine hospital treatment at the end of August, up from 7,289 at the end of July.
The government and NHS England set the ambition of eliminating all waits of over 18 months by April this year, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer.
A total of 396,643 people in England have also been waiting longer than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment as of the end of August, up from 389,952 at the end of July.
The ambition is to eliminate all waits of over a year by March 2025.
The NHS recovery plan sets a target of March 2024 for 76% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
The data also shows the number of patients in England waiting longer than 62 days since an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer was 23,809 in the week ending September 3, up from 21,016 in the week to August 6.
Most of the patients included in this total do not have cancer and are waiting for a diagnostic test, while around one in seven do have cancer and are waiting for treatment.
The government and NHS England set the ambition of returning this figure to pre-pandemic levels (when the weekly average was 13,463) by March this year.
The data also shows 62.8% of cancer patients who had their first treatment in August after an urgent GP referral had waited less than two months, up slightly from 62.6% in July.
The target is 85%.
Professor Peter Friend, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Increased demand, record staff vacancies and industrial action all continue to hold back recovery efforts.
“Whilst NHS staff continue to work hard to reduce waiting lists, this is happening in extremely challenging circumstances – and that is before winter pressures hit.
“The government’s recent financial boost to help the health service this winter is very much welcome. However, the Prime Minister’s key pledge of reducing the size of the waiting list by March 2024 is looking more and more in doubt.
“The government must continue to fund surgical hubs in areas that are struggling to bring down long waits for operations.
“These are physically separated from emergency services in hospitals and allow scheduled tests and planned operations to proceed, unaffected by increased pressure in other parts of the hospital.”