RCR responds to latest NHSE diagnostic imaging waiting times for September

Thursday 11 November 2021

Latest waiting times show the number of patients facing long waits for scans in England is now steadily increasing month-on-month.

NHS radiology departments have succeeded in bringing down long waits from the record highs of summer 2020, caused by the pause in non-urgent hospital work. However, figures for September 2021 released today (11 November) by NHS England show the number of long waiters is now going up again, with rises seen each month from June to September.  

In September 2021 more than 192,000 patients in England had been waiting six weeks or more for a CT, MRI or ultrasound scan. In February 2020 the number was 11,338.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting more than 13 weeks for the same scans is now 50,348, compared to 1,636 in February 2020.

The RCR is concerned to see the growing number of patients waiting for scans, and is calling on hospitals and NHS leaders to act now to support hospital imaging teams to tackle the upswing in waits.

RCR President Dr Jeanette Dickson said:

“The number of radiologists in training has had a large boost this year, and the past fortnight has seen some hugely welcome funding pledges from the Government to update and increase the number of scanners and upgrade hospital IT to support improvements in diagnostic pathways and create community diagnostic centres. Funding announced to rollout the RCR’s iRefer clinical software across primary and secondary care will also ensure the correct imaging tests are requested, further streamlining pathways.

“But today’s figures show the relentless pressure on radiology departments continues, and the number of patients in England facing long waits for scans is rising again because of staffing constraints and the onset of winter pressures. 

“To stop this spiral of long waits, trusts and the wider NHS need to maximise what short-term solutions they can right now to support, better equip and retain our imaging workforce. This means speeding up the rollout of connected imaging networks and the ability of radiologists to report remotely, upskilling non-medics to report certain scans, as well enabling more flexible working patterns.

“For the medium to long-term, we must see a concerted high-level commitment from NHS and Government officials to address the radiology workforce crisis via sustainable investment in more radiologists, radiographers and imaging support staff, as well as increasing global recruitment.”