NHS England has published NHS performance statistics for February, which show that the service is struggling under pressure, despite treating more patients than ever before.

According to the data, the number of A&E attendances admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours was 1.65m – 84.2% of the total. This is a 6.3% increase on the equivalent figure for February 2018, but still below the 95% expected rate. The 95% standard was last met in July 2015.

The mean average ambulance response times across England in February 2019 were seven minutes 17 seconds for Category 1, and 23 minutes 37 seconds for Category 2, meaning that both C1 and C2 averages failed to meet their respective standards of seven minutes and 18 minutes.

The stats also show a 14% increase in people seen for cancer referrals in the 12 months prior to January 2019, with 91.7% of people being seen by a specialist within two weeks - just below the 93% standard.

For operations deemed non-emergency there were 228,000 patients waiting for more than six months, marking a jump of 31% on the same time the previous year.

"These statistics are further proof that, despite treating more patients than ever before, the NHS is being overwhelmed," said Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation.

"Hospitals and other local services are facing huge increases in demand at a time of constrained funding and 100,000 staffvacancies. Despite local NHS trusts working harder and more effectively than ever, we are seeing far higher A&E attendances and admissions than at the same point last year."

Dr Simon Walsh, BMA emergency medicine lead, consultant committee also commented: “Despite a relatively mild winter so far, the fact that nearly two million patients attended an Emergency Department in February – 130,000 more than a year ago – shows that demand is relentless and that the NHS is truly in crisis.

“Doctors and nursing staff are struggling to cope each day and the news that, for the second month in a row, the four-hour target is at an historic low, while the number of patients having to wait four or more hours on hospital trolleys – almost 72,000, is also stark evidence of an NHS in ever-deepening decline.”

“Patients being referred for planned or elective treatment are now having to wait two months, which often leads to a worsening of their condition. This is in turn adding to the workload of those who will care for them and often to a longer stay in hospital.