1. Economics
May 14, 2020updated 12 Jul 2022 8:14am

Number of patients waiting 6+ weeks for a diagnostic test triples

By Nicu Calcea

The number of people waiting six or more weeks for a diagnostic test in England almost tripled in March 2020 alone as Covid-19 saw hospital postpone “non-urgent” treatment.

New figures from NHS England show that, by the end of March, 85,446 patients had been waiting six or more weeks for diagnostic tests and procedures – up from 29,832 in February and 26,483 in March 2019.

The data covers a series of 15 different medical procedures including MRIs, heart tests, colonoscopies and gastroscopies. 

While the total number of people waiting for tests actually fell in March, the percentage waiting for more than six weeks shot up above 10%.

The tests with the highest increases in the share of patients waiting for them were bone density scans, non-obstetric ultrasounds, and hearing tests.

The NHS Improvement Plan, put into motion in 2004, set a milestone that no one should wait for more than six weeks for a diagnostic test by March 2008. The number waiting for more than six weeks is the highest since then.

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