NHS waiting times are on the rise after the Government scrapped the 18-week target for treatment, figures have suggested.
Thousands more people are waiting longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment from the time of referral by their GP, early indications show.
The Department of Health scrapped central monitoring of 18 weeks in June but said patients would not expect to return to long waiting times.
NHS trusts no longer have to prove they are treating patients within 18 weeks.
An analysis of figures by Pulse magazine shows 45,000 patients missed out on treatment within 18 weeks during September, up 15% from 39,000 in July.
Some 12.6% of patients needing orthopaedic or trauma treatment and 10.6% needing oral surgery waited more than 18 weeks.
Chaand Nagpaul, from the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said trusts were already taking advantage of the fact the target had gone.
“We’re getting reports of trusts delaying treatment so they can address financial problems. The Government is engaging in double speak – removing targets on one hand but committed to patients’ rights (through the NHS Constitution) on the other.”
The NHS Constitution, brought in by Labour, is legally binding and says patients should be treated within 18 weeks.
Figures for July show that 93.3% of admitted and 98.1% of non-admitted patients were treated within 18 weeks, but this has slipped since then.