New report finds patients still waiting for test results despite huge increase in spend on outsourcing

Wednesday 25 May 2016

new report from The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) finds that very large numbers of patients in England are still waiting over a month for the results of scans and X-rays. This is despite a huge increase in spending by trusts on costly and inefficient outsourcing. 

X-rays and scans are critical to modern medical diagnosis but NHS patients are feeling the effect of a chronic failure to invest in these services.

The RCR survey Diagnostic radiology: Our patients are still waiting…. shows:      


  • 230,000 patients are waiting more than a month for test results.
  • 12,000 of these patients are waiting for results of CT or MRI scans – tests often carried out to detect or monitor cancer.


  • NHS trusts are spending more and more on costly and inefficient outsourcing to try to plug the gap. The extra spending on radiology reporting in England rose by 50% from £47 million to £73.8 million between 2014 and 2015. This would pay for around 900 extra radiologists if invested in sustainable services.

And we should not forget:


Patients with cancer in the UK continue to suffer worse outcomes than patients in other similar countries. Much of the difference is due to late diagnosis.

Commenting on the report Dr Giles Maskell, RCR President said:

“Early diagnosis of serious medical conditions such as cancer is vital so that patients have the best chance of cure. Any delay caused by the shortage of  radiologists can lead to worse outcomes for patients.”

Dr Maskell continued:

“The impact of these delays is felt not only in the potential for delayed diagnoses but also in the anxiety felt by patients, their families and friends. Without immediate and sustained investment to address the chronic shortfall in radiologist numbers, the ambitions for earlier diagnosis of cancer set out in the 2015 English Cancer Strategy will simply not be realised.”



Further information: Mark Covey 020 7406 5906 / 07554 998193.

Notes for Editors:

  1. The RCR backlog reporting survey Diagnostic radiology: Our patients are still waiting was carried out in February 2016 to identify the number of imaging studies unreported in NHS radiology departments. Clinical directors of these departments in all 155 NHS acute trusts in England were asked the question: On Monday 29 February 2016, how many studies (X-ray, CT and MRI) in your picture archiving and communications system (PACS) were unreported for 31 days or more? Responses were received from 126 of the 155 trusts invited to take part in the survey (81%).  As part of the RCR’s annual workforce census, all UK radiology departments were also asked to provide a figure for the total annual expenditure on additional payments to radiologists for working outside their contracted hours and outsourcing of radiology reporting. Responses were received from all radiology departments in England.
  2. The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has carried out a series of surveys to monitor the extent and volume of diagnostic reporting delays in English NHS trusts. Surveys were carried out in February and September 2015 and we now present the findings of the latest survey conducted in England in February 2016. Data was also collected as part of our annual clinical radiology workforce census (which covers the whole UK) on the annual expenditure of NHS radiology departments on additional reporting and outsourcing.
  3. Consultant radiologists are doctors who interpret X-rays, scans and other types of medical images to detect and diagnose disease and injury. Timely, accurate diagnosis using imaging techniques can speed up access to treatment, prevent or reduce hospital stays and offer major cost savings. 
  4. The Royal College of Radiologists has over 9,900 Fellows and members worldwide, representing the specialties of clinical oncology and clinical radiology. The College sets and maintains the standards for entry to and practise in the specialties in addition to leading and supporting practitioners throughout their careers.