The share of referrals waiting more than three months for a diagnostic test — one of the key problems behind long waits for cancer treatment — is worse than at any point since February 2021, during the second national covid lockdown.
NHS England data released this morning for September shows 12.4% of the 1.6 million awaiting a test had been on the list longer than 13 weeks.
At the peak of June 2020, 32% waited more than 13 weeks, but the proportion dropped back beneath 1 in 10, in May 2021, as services ramped up activity following the impact of the major winter 2020-21 Covid wave.
Echocardiography patients and those needing endoscopies had the highest proportion of patients waiting more than six weeks – these specialties jointly comprise about a third of the total national waiting list and had 48 and 38%, respectively, of their lists over six weeks.
Katharine Halliday, president of The Royal College of Radiologists, said: ”Today’s cancer waiting times data is alarming. We know the longer patients wait for a diagnosis or treatment, the less their chance of survival.
“Our members are clinical radiologists and clinical oncologists, and much of their work involves diagnosing and treating cancer. Today’s figures show the NHS in England would have to employ 441 radiology consultants, the equivalent of a 16% increase in the current workforce, in order to clear the six-week wait for CT and MRI scans in one month.”
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Source: HSJ, 10 November 2022