RCR responds to NHSE diagnostic waiting times figures for June

Thursday 13 August 2020

NHS England (NHSE) has released its monthly statistics for the number of patients receiving and waiting for hospital scans. 

The June 2020 data shows that scanning rates are now climbing back to pre-coronavirus levels.

However, the knock-on impact of pausing non-emergency imaging during the coronavirus peak means the number of patients waiting more than six weeks for a CT or MRI scan is still  nearly fifteen times higher than at the start of the year.

While the number of patients facing long waits for CT or MRI scans went down by more than 16,000 from May to June, the NHSE figures show 127,897 patients were waiting six weeks or more for those scans in June, compared to 8,761 in February.

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) applauds hospital imaging teams working hard to tackle the backlog of scan referrals, but has warned that radiology teams will find it almost impossible to meet NHSE targets for imaging without more sustained investment.    

RCR President Dr Jeanette Dickson said:

“The number of patients waiting six weeks or more for an MRI or CT scan has gone down from May to June, which shows imaging teams are working hard to get through the patients whose scans have been delayed because of coronavirus. But more than 127,000 patients still face long waits to be seen.

“Chronic shortages of staff and modern scanners meant imaging teams were overstretched even before COVID-19 hit, and now they are not able to scan as many patients as they used to due to coronavirus infection control measures.
“NHSE leaders are now calling on local radiology teams to clear the imaging backlog, make a rapid return to pre-coronavirus levels of scanning and create ‘covid-secure’ scanning facilities. However, local teams will find it almost impossible to meet those targets. 

“To keep up with the ongoing demand for scans and reduce patient waiting times while working around COVID-19, NHS radiology needs more capacity, which will ultimately require central investment in imaging staff, scanning equipment and supporting IT.”