The King's Fund think-tank said another national record for the number of people on hospital waiting lists shows the strain on the NHS is reaching “unacceptable levels”.
NHS England figures show the median waiting time for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was 13 weeks at the end of February – the same as in January.
However, this was more than the average 12-week wait a year previously.
There were 71,929 patients on the waiting list in February – up from 70,046 in January, and 45,370 in February 2021.
Of those, 2,450 had been waiting for longer than one year.
Nationally, 6.2 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February.
This is up from 6.1 million in January and the highest number since records began in August 2007.
But the figures also show that while the overall waiting list has continued to grow, the number of people waiting more than a year and two years have both fallen.
Danielle Jefferies, analyst at The King’s Fund, said the latest national figures show pressures are now reaching “unacceptable levels”.
She added: “A&E departments remain full of patients in need of urgent care, and separate data shows a similar story in general practice and social care.
“In March, 22,500 people waited over 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E – a more than thirty-fold increase compared to a year ago."
Separate figures show 1.5 million patients in England were waiting for a key diagnostic test in February – the same as in January.
At Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust, 16,940 patients were waiting for one of 13 standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at this time.
Of them, 4,098 (24%) had been waiting for at least six weeks.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there are 20,000 medically-fit patients who cannot be discharged due to pressures on social care."
“Trusts are also grappling with the ongoing impact of Covid-19," he added.
"That’s meant more patients with Covid-19 in hospital beds, more staff off work with Covid-19, and more delayed discharges than anyone was expecting or had predicted.”
Other figures show cancer patients at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust are not being seen quickly enough.
The NHS states 85% of cancer patients urgently referred by a GP should start treatment within 62 days.
But NHS England data shows just 59% of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust in February.
That was down from both 69% in January, and 67% in February 2021 last year.
NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands, balancing competing priorities and maintaining high-quality patient care.
“Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July thanks to the innovative approaches to care they are now adopting."