Nearly 18million fewer NHS appointments were carried out last year, according to official data that lays bare the true toll of the Covid-induced backlog on the health service.
Before the pandemic struck, around 96million outpatient appointments such as CT scans, X-rays and MRIs were carried out every year.
But the total figure fell by 18 per cent in 2020/21, the health service’s own statistics revealed today.
Hospitals cancelled 12.6million procedures, which was the highest toll since health chiefs began collecting the data a decade ago.
NHS Digital, which compiled the annual report, admitted the trend was down to ‘the impact of the coronavirus pandemic’.
Disruptions to healthcare has already seen waiting lists for routine surgeries including hip and knee replacements spiral to a record high of 5.6million.
This is expected to climb even further as millions of people who delayed or were unable to seek care during the pandemic come forward.
Operations, scans and appointments were cancelled as the NHS focused on treating Covid patients and many people were scared to attend hospital for fear of catching the virus.
NHS Digital’s figures come after health bosses pleaded for a further £1.5billion in funding, just a fortnight after No10 pushed through a £12billion tax raid to prop up the NHS.