NEARLY 28,000 people are awaiting treatment at the district's three hospitals, as the national waiting list hits a six-year high.

The number of people waiting for treatment at Bradford Royal Infirmary, St Luke's and Airedale hospitals is the highest it has been in 12 months, the new NHS England data shows.

But the trusts which run them have been praised for making sure patients are seen within a national target of 18 weeks.

A spokesman for local patients' watchdog, Healthwatch Bradford and District, said: "These figures show that there is ever increasing pressure on health services, and that our local trusts are performing well against the waiting list targets with most people receiving treatment within 18 weeks.

"We know that staff at both Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust work really hard under sometimes difficult circumstances to deliver the best treatment for their patients."

Nationally, there are now 3.1 million patients on the waiting list - the highest the figure has been since March 2008.

The waiting list for Bradford Teaching Hospitals - which runs Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke's - stood at 20,747 in May, and the number waiting for treatment at Airedale Hospital in Steeton was 7,211.

Hospitals have to make sure 90 per cent of inpatients and 95 per cent of outpatients are treated within 18 weeks of being referred by their doctor.

At Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, 90.7 per cent of inpatients and 96.3 per cent of outpatients were being seen on time.

A spokesman for the trust said the number of patients waiting for treatment would fluctuate month-by-month for a variety of reasons.

She said: "Our priority is always to focus on each individual patient to make sure they receive timely and appropriate treatment, in line with their clinical need, and we make every effort to meet, and are achieving, the national 18-week target for patients being referred for treatment at Airedale. "

At Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the performance was even better, with 91.1 per cent of inpatients and 97.3 per cent of outpatients seen within the time limit.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Debbie Pook said: “Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust prides itself on delivering above the national standard for patient waiting times.

"The National waiting time standard for patients still waiting is 92 per cent , this means that 92% of patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks for treatment. Our current performance is 97.6 per cent. The eight per cent national standard tolerance is because of factors such as complex care needs, another is because of patient choice.

“Bradford Teaching Hospitals cares for approximately 600,000 patients every year, so this high delivery of patient care is a positive for everybody living in and around Bradford and something we as an NHS hospital are very proud of.

"It is thanks to an effective health and social care economy that we are able to deliver this standard, along with our committed and dedicated colleagues working in the hospital, with our patients and local GPs to ensure timely referrals to any necessary treatments.”

Nationally, there are now 3.1 million on the waiting list, according to NHS England data.

The figures, which monitor the length of time from referral through to elective treatment, show an increase in the number of people on the waiting list over the past three months monitored.

In March there were 2.91 million waiting, which increased to 3.02 million in April and finally 3.1 million in May.

The figure is now the highest it has been since March 2008.

NHS England said that the health service is treating more patients than ever.

In May, the average length of time people spent on the list was 9.1 weeks for admitted patients and 5.5 weeks for those outside hospital.

Dr Barbara Hakin, chief operating officer of NHS England, said: "The NHS is treating more patients than ever, the vast majority of patients are treated within 18 weeks from referral by their GP with more than half treated within nine weeks.

"While all the required standards are achieved this month we are not complacent and we will be working hard with frontline staff over the summer months to treat even more patients."