Patients forced to wait months for vital NHS diagnostic tests | NHS

Patients forced to wait months for vital NHS diagnostic tests | NHS

Medical teams have warned that some diagnostic services in the National Health Service they are “close to failure”, with more than 184,000 patients in England waiting three months or more for key tests.

Children in some specialized hospitals are among those waiting several weeks for diagnostic procedures, in breach of government targets.

Under the Constitution of the National Health Servicepatients must wait less than six weeks for such tests, which include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nonobstetric ultrasound, cardiac procedures, and lung function tests.

Doctors and radiographers say they are working “to capacity” and that the current approach to reducing wait times in the face of staff shortages is “reckless and unsustainable”.

An analysis by the Observer of latest waiting times for diagnostic tests at the end of October found:

patients at the university hospitals from Leicester NHS Trust face some of the longest waits in the country. The latest figures show that 14,437 patients in the trust had been waiting 13 weeks or more for key diagnostic tests.

At the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust in London, 194 patients had been waiting six weeks or more and 30 patients had been waiting 13 weeks or more for diagnostic procedures. There are wait times of several weeks for some children for MRIs and echocardiograms, which are used to assess the structure and function of the heart.

At some of the country’s largest trusts, more than half of all patients referred for testing had been waiting six weeks or more. These include the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust; and the York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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Fountain: nhs england. Note: these data are for NHS trusts and exclude private providers contracted to the NHS

Richard Evans, executive director of the Society of Radiographers, the professional body for the diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy workforce, said: “Requiring exhausted radiographers and others to work in an unprofessional and unsafe manner strikes at the heart of the values ​​they hold afloat the NHS”.

As of the end of October 2022, 426,003 patients had been waiting six weeks or more in England for 15 key diagnostic tests and procedures, representing 27.5% of all patients waiting. The number of patients who waited 13 weeks or more was 184,187.

The operating standard is that less than 1% of patients must wait six weeks or more. More than 2 million diagnostic procedures are carried out on the NHS England each month for a variety of purposes, including diagnosing cancer, identifying heart disease and establishing the scope of musculoskeletal injuries.

The government is opening new community diagnostic centers, but many patients face weeks-long waits for tests despite this additional investment.

There are also large variations in wait times. In the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, 8,370 patients out of 21,661 (38.6%) faced waits of 13 weeks or more for diagnostic tests, while in the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust , only 70 patients out of 11,808 (0.6%) faced 13-week waits. weeks or more.

In just three of the leading specialist children’s trusts – Great Ormond Street, the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool and the Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust – more than 300 patients in total were waiting 13 weeks or more for tests of key diagnosis. These include MRIs; respiratory physiology tests, which analyze lung function in possible sleep disorders; and urodynamics, which measures bladder function.

A report published last month by the Imaging and Oncology Forum, which includes the Society of Radigraphers and the Royal College of Radiologists, warned that diagnostic imaging services were “on the brink of failure”. It stated: “Working with excess capacity threatens patient safety, is hurting healthcare professionals and is challenging the quality of service.”

Dr Katharine Halliday, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: “Before covid, we weren’t getting by, but the pandemic made things worse. It is distressing for people to feel that they are not offering a good service. Patients wait a lot longer and most things get worse while you wait.”

A Great Ormond Street hospital spokesperson said: “Referrals are assessed based on risk, and all urgent diagnoses will be prioritized and patients seen before six weeks. Our latest figures show that 15% of patients wait more than six weeks for a diagnostic test.” The spokesperson said the new community centers were designed primarily for adults.

A spokesman for the Alder Hey children’s NHS foundation said there were “robust” plans to reduce waiting times for all diagnostic tests to less than six weeks by April. The spokesman said that many diagnostic services, such as radiology, had provided all the tests within six weeks of November.

A spokesman for the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust apologized for the longer waiting times, saying it had “processes in place to ensure those who require diagnostic tests receive them urgently in the appropriate time frame.” He said an arson attack at Lincoln County Hospital earlier this year destroyed a scanner and reduced capacity.

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