Health secretary matt hancock warned the uk had reached a perilous moment in the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting the nhs may struggle to continue providing routine services unless britons work together to suppress covid-19.

A total of 17,540 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on thursday and mr hancock said he was very worried about the growth in cases, especially in the north west and north east of england, parts of wales, scotland and northern ireland and parts of yorkshire.

In the north west, hospitals were seeing admissions double about every fortnight and they had risen by 57 per cent in the past week alone, he added.

Addressing the annual conference of nhs providers, which represents hospitals, mr hancock said: we know from bitter experience that the more coronavirus spreads, the harder it is to do all the other vital work of the nhs too.

Earlier yvonne doyle, medical director for public health england, said there was a definite and sustained increase in cases and admissions to hospital, describing the trend as clear and...concerning.

Nhs chief executive simon stevens said on wednesday that at the start of september, there had been fewer than 500 covid-19 patients in hospital and now there were now nearly 3,000.

The latest official data, published on thursday but reflecting the position a week earlier, showed more than 2,000 nhs hospital beds are now occupied by covid-19 patients, the majority in the north of england.

The north west topped the table, with 688 beds taken by coronavirus patients. in the north east and yorkshire, they occupied 502 beds. but there were marked regional variations, with just 36 beds in the south west taken by covid-19 patients.

Separately, the latest figures from englands test and trace programme showed the number of people testing positive for coronavirus had risen more than 50 per cent over the course of a week, while fewer than seven out of 10 who had been in contact with them were reached and advised to self-isolate.

The data, covering the week to september 30, painted a grim picture of a system under enormous pressure, with test turnround times rising sharply and contact tracers struggling to find people before they can spread the disease to others.

Meanwhile, monthly performance data for the nhs underlined the huge backlog of outstanding treatment racked up during the pandemic, when critical care for covid-19 patients was prioritised over routine work.

Chaand nagpaul, chair of the ruling council of the british medical association, which represents doctors, said the number of people waiting over a year for treatment was the highest since 2008. waiting times for cancer treatment were continuing to increase, he added.

This latest set ofperformancestats shows we are on an extremely worrying trajectory heading into winter, with patients continuing to suffer enormously, said dr nagpaul.

Routinenhsservices were struggling to cope, let alone return to normal, contending with rising demand, winter pressures, and the ongoing impact of covid-19, he added.

The nhs said hospitals were carrying out more than 1m routine appointments and operations each week, with about three times the levels of non-emergency patients admitted to hospital than in april.

The health service continued to make progress on getting services back to pre-covid levels includingscanning services which are delivering millions of urgent checks and tests, it added.