Department for Health defends against Labour's NHS attacks

Waiting lists at the NHS have hit a five-year high, official figures have revealed.

The number of people waiting to be admitted for operations or other treatment rose from around 2.5m in recent years to 2.88m in June – the highest level since May 2008.

The Labour party has blamed over-burdended A&E departments and government cuts to social care and nursing headcount. Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said:

David Cameron wasted £3 billion on an NHS reorganisation that took the focus off patient care. At the same time, almost five thousand nursing jobs were axed and cuts to older people's care budgets left thousands more vulnerable people arriving at A&E.

Meanwhile, medical journal The Lancet medical said the Coalition was treating the health service like “a failing bank or business”.

However, the Department for Health has dismissed there is a problem, saying that waiting times themselves have not increased (median waiting time is 5.7 weeks – the same as the year before), but the increased figure derives from a significant rise in demand.

It added that the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment has fallen by 55,000 since the Coalition government took power.