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UK diagnostic waiting times fall

The UK’s Department of Health (DH) yesterday said that waiting times for diagnostic tests have fallen by 97% in two years.

The monthly figures suggest that the number of people waiting for diagnosis for over six weeks at the end of March was 12,900 – just of 3% of the total number of waiting patients. In March 2007, the figure for diagnostics waiting times was 243,000, with 404,000 in April 2006.

The figures covered diagnostic tests such as MRI and CT scans, audiology and gastro function tests.

The government aims to limit the gap between GP referral and hospital treatment to 18 weeks by the end of the year.

“When we first published diagnostics waiting times two years ago, the average expected waiting time was 6.8 weeks,” said UK health minister Ben Bradshaw.

“Today it is 2.5 weeks and it continues to fall. This is a fantastic achievement by NHS staff. It will also help us reach our historic commitment that no-one will have to wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment by the end of this year.”

The DH admitted that treatment times “remain higher than is acceptable”, and announced that data is being collected – beginning from April 2008 – on the time from referral to treatment.

“Some patients experience long waits for treatment and we have made it clear that the NHS will not be credible in claiming success on 18 weeks if it does not make excellent progress in tackling these waits,” said Ivan Lewis, care services minister.

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Department of Health