It’s disappointing to see thousands of patients waiting over 6 weeks to receive a diagnostic test – in July, nearly 85,000 people were waiting over 6 weeks for a CT or MRI scan. All of NHS England’s diagnostic and main cancer targets were missed yet again.
It is wrong to suggest that these delays are wholly a result of industrial action. In February 2022, prior to the first round of doctors strikes, the CT and MRI waiting list stood at over 86,000. Doctors and NHS staff continue to work incredibly hard to deliver care as evidenced in improvements in cancer waiting times.
To clear the 6 week wait backlog in one month, the NHS would have to hire 386 additional radiologists overnight, equivalent to 10% of the workforce.
We need further action to expand diagnostic capacity. While Community Diagnostic Centres are a welcome initiative, we need to think about the workforce required to report these scans. In our 2022 census, 90% of clinical directors (who work with CDCs) said that reporting scans for local diagnostic centres had increased their workload. Almost half (48%) said the increase in their workload was unmanageable.
We can no longer do more of the same – we need a new approach to how we deliver services which will require the system embracing innovation and supporting the workforce.