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Diagnostic Test Waiting Times on the Increase

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Despite promises from David Cameron that NHS waiting times would not increase, figures just released have shown that this is not the case.  In May 2011, 15,667 patients waited more than six weeks for important diagnostic tests, as opposed to 3,378 in the same month last year.  These include waiting times for tests such as x-rays, ultra-sounds and cardiology diagnostics.

When you bring into play the waiting times for patients results of these tests, the figures become even more worrying.  While 2.7 per cent of patients waited over six weeks for their diagnostic test results, 1,800 had to wait three months or more.  Something which not only causes patients needless extra anxiety, but can also delay the commencement of necessary treatment for conditions such as cancer if there is a delay in diagnosis.

These rises are causing much concern, not only amongst the patients who are affected, but in the doctors who provide the treatment as well.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors said, “It is worrying that patients are having to wait longer for tests, as this could delay diagnosis and have a detrimental effect on patient care.”

Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said “We must not return to the days when it took three months to get an MRI or ultrasound scan done, but that is a risk.  Delays in access to diagnostics can cause anxiety and uncertainty and can, in the worst case, result in failure to diagnose serious pathology early enough, such as cancer.”

The Department of Health acknowledged these increases but stressed that 97.3 percent of patients had been diagnosed below the six week threshold.  They also used this as an example of the increasing pressures on the service and why it’s yet another essential reason for the NHS to be modernised.

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