Nearly four and half million people in England were waiting to start hospital treatment, according to the most recent figures for November 2020. The numbers are likely to have increased since then.
It’s the latest indication of the cost of the pandemic on the NHS and the impact on patients waiting for treatment — many for life-threatening conditions including cancer.
The Royal College of Surgeons described the situation as “calamitous”.
Sophie Raworth presents BBC News at Ten reporting by health editor Hugh Pym.