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NHS England turnaround times – what are we seeing?

Article by: Dr Stephen Harden

New data from NHS England shows that too many patients are waiting over a month for their imaging results, as a result of insufficient diagnostic capacity. 

Managing the ever-growing volume of patient scans is an ongoing challenge for radiologists across the UK, adding additional pressure on our heavy workloads and causing delays in crucial patient diagnoses and treatment.

The Royal College of Radiologists has been working with NHS England (NHSE) to introduce a new target. Starting from August 2023, the national target is that 100% of scans should be reported within four weeks. This initiative helps us to measure and demonstrate the strained capacity within radiology departments for the first time.

Alongside this target, NHSE have published data from the two preceding years, measuring the percentage of scans which took over four weeks for a report to be made available after the scan was carried out. We have attempted to break down this data and explore what it means for our Fellows and members, as well as for patients. The data shows a complex picture but reinforces what we know to be the case - that a substantial number of patients are waiting far too long to receive their scan results.

There is an urgent need for the Government and NHSE to address the challenges faced by radiology departments to meet the new reporting target.

Looking ahead, it is crucial to recognise the dedication and expertise of radiologists, who strive to provide high-quality and timely interpretations of medical images. It is only by demonstrating the situation within which we are working that we can identify the support we need to alleviate the pressures on radiologists – ensuring patients receive the timely care they deserve. We hope that this briefing goes some way in supporting this.

Read the full briefing
Article by:

Dr Stephen Harden is a consultant in cardiothoracic radiology at University Hospital Southampton, having been appointed in 2005.

He completed undergraduate medical training at the University of Cambridge and St Thomas’s Hospital in the University of London. He trained in Clinical Radiology in Wessex and undertook further training in Germany and the USA. His consultant clinical practice includes cardiac and thoracic cross-sectional imaging and PET/CT.

Before his current role, Dr Harden was the Medical Director for Education and Training in Clinical Radiology at the RCR from 2019-2022. He chaired the RCR Clinical Radiology Professional Learning and Development sub-committee from 2017-2019 and has been an FRCR part 2A examiner. Previously, he was President of the British Society of Cardiovascular Imaging, the first RCR travelling cardiac Professor, BIR Vice President, Head of Wessex School of Radiology and the senior cardiac editor for the British Journal of Radiology. 

Read our interview with Dr Harden and find out what attracted him to the specialty and why he wanted to get more involved with the RCR.

Dr Harden's tenure as Vice-President, Clinical Radiology at the RCR is 2023-2026.