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RCR response to NHSE data release on diagnostic imaging times

In response to NHS England’s diagnostic imaging data release, Dr Katharine Halliday, President of the Royal College of Radiologists said: 

“The latest NHS diagnostic imaging data highlights a concerning reality: almost three-quarters of a million patients waited a month or more for their scan results in 2023, with nearly 10,000 emergency scans delayed. It's a clear indicator that we're short on clinical radiologists, risking patient safety. The Government must urgently boost training and retention efforts to meet the demand and ensure timely diagnoses for all.


New diagnostic data from NHS England shows that in 2023, almost three-quarters of a million people waited over a month for the results of their scan. 345,000 of those were waiting for a complex scan (CT, MRI, nuclear, PET and SPET), equivalent to 2.8% of the total number of complex scans done in the year.

The data is a clear sign that we do not have enough consultant radiologists to report the ongoing level of diagnostic imaging tests in a safe timeframe. Patients are now waiting too long to receive the results of their often-urgent scans. Given that NHS England’s target is that no scan is reported past 28 days, there is evidently still a long way to go. Most concerningly, nearly 10,000 complex scans conducted in an A&E department were reported after 28 days, meaning patients admitted for an emergency condition had to wait over a month for their diagnosis. 
These stark figures should send a signal to policy makers that we simply need to train more radiologists if we are to tackle the high level of demand which we are continuing to witness. To do this, we need to urgently maintain and expand radiology specialty training places, grow training capacity to accommodate medical graduates, and act quickly to retain consultants, whose expertise we are reliant on to develop the service and train the future generation of doctors. 

NB 2023 data is provisional, while 2022 data is final.