There are grave concerns about how the NHS will cope as winter approaches and the service is put under further pressure, a leading doctor has warned in response to the latest official figures.
NHS England performance statistics show there were just under two million attendances to A&E departments during August, down on the 2.2 million seen a month before.
But Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said they still show the "system is under more pressure than ever before".
The figures show 89.7% of A&E patients were seen within four hours, with 39,350 patients having to wait longer than the four-hour target from the decision to admit them to admission, and 156 patients forced to wait longer than 12 hours.
Dr Scriven (pictured) said: "As we move closer to winter, there are grave concerns as to the ability of the NHS to cope.
"The winter plan published this week by NHS Improvement offered little help for those on the front-line, while the recent Government announcement of funding for 900 extra beds leaves us 3,100 short of the additional amount required last year.
"Alongside a staffing crisis, this all presents a massive concern for those in emergency and acute medicine who have worked through two intense winters and six months of unremitting pressure.
"At the end of the worst of the winter pressures earlier this year, we suggested the NHS needed to consider a more formal suspension of non-urgent surgery during the busiest periods and we again say that, although unpopular in some quarters, it needs re-examining.
"Nothing can be worse for a patient than having planned care cancelled at the last minute and only an NHS-wide and mandated reduction in elective operations might avoid this scenario, while giving hospitals a chance to cope with urgent care."
An NHS England spokesman said: "Minor injuries have fuelled a significant rise in A&E visits over the last decade yet against this backdrop, and with pressures increased by the hottest summer on record, hard-working NHS staff saw, treated and discharged or admitted 50,000 more patients within four hours last month than August last year."
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Calderdale And Huddersfield Foundation Trust.