Nearly 225,000 people in England have now waited over 12 months for routine hospital treatment, NHS figures show.
That is the highest number since April 2008 and includes people waiting for operations such as knee and hip surgery.
It comes as growing numbers of operations were postponed during December when Covid cases rose rapidly, prompting a national lockdown.
However cancer care seems to have been less affected.
During December, just over 200,000 patients received urgent checks by cancer specialists and 25,000 people started their treatment – both measures are in line with numbers seen before the pandemic.
But Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said 2020 had been a “devastating year” for many people living with cancer “who faced agonising delays or disruption to diagnosis and treatment”.
She urged anyone experiencing cancer symptoms to contact their GP without delay and go to medical appointments.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said Covid-19 continued to take an enormous toll on hundreds of thousands of people across the country left waiting for an operation.
Vice president, Mr Tim Mitchell, said the number waiting over a year for their treatment was now 150 times higher than it had been in 2019.
“Many are waiting in limbo, reliant on painkillers, and unable to get on with day-to-day family life or work,” he said.
Although infection rates are now coming down in many parts of the country, Mr Mitchell warned many staff were “burnt-out” from what had been “a brutal and traumatic year” and would need time to recover.