The number of patients waiting for hospital treatment is at a five-year high, with almost 2.9 million people on the list, according to a report in The Guardian.

Figures for June show the waiting list for operations and other admissions in England has grown by nearly a quarter of a million since the same time last year.

The statistics, released on Thursday by NHS England, come amid concern that patients are waiting too long for medical attention in A&E units.

Ministers have blamed pressure on A&E services on a million more people needing emergency care, forcing David Cameron to give an extra £500m to the worst-affected hospitals. However, Labour argues that the coalition's scrapping of the NHS Direct advice line and the wider health service shake-up have contributed to the problems, with a knock-on effect on waiting times for non-urgent operations.

Andrew Gwynne, Labour's health spokesman, linked the longer waiting times for operations to the "A&E crisis".He said: "Thousands of extra patients are facing the agony of a long-awaited operation being cancelled as overflowing A&E departments need more and more hospital beds. Whole hospitals are being consumed by the crisis in A&E.

"David Cameron wasted £3bn on an NHS reorganisation that took the focus off patient care. At the same time, almost 5,000 nursing jobs were axed and cuts to older people's care budgets left thousands more vulnerable people arriving at A&E."

The NHS referral to treatment figures showed that 2.88 million patients are on the waiting list, compared with about 2.5 million for much of the past few years. Monitor, the NHS regulator, has warned in a report that some hospitals are having to cancel non-urgent operations or other treatment "to deal with increased A&E and non-elective pressures".

It said several trusts have reported backlogs in patients waiting for treatment. The Department of Health said the average waiting time for operations is stable despite the increase in the number of people on the list.

"The NHS is performing well – it is treating over a million patients a month," a spokeswoman said. "But despite this average waiting times are low and stable and the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks is nearly 55,000 lower than in May 2010 and the number of people waiting for more than a year to start treatment is the lowest it has ever been. "A&E departments have been seeing 95% of their patients within four hours since the end of April."

The NHS is carrying out 4m more outpatient appointments, dealing with a million more people attending A&E, and conducting 2.4m more diagnostic tests than it was three years ago.