HOSPITAL chiefs say a rise in demand is behind delays in access to diagnostic tests across the borough.
Amid calls for ‘urgent action’ from health charities, Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) say they are doing all they can to fix a backlog which has left scores of patients waiting longer than the six week NHS target.
The latest figures show that in April, nearly 17,000 patients had been waiting more than six weeks for scans and investigations - including for cancer.
NHS England says most patients are investigated promptly, despite a big rise in demand for tests.
The NHS constitution says no one should have to wait more than six weeks for a diagnostic test. A spokesman for WWL said: “The trust’s priority is to achieve the six week access to scan national target.
“Along with the rest of the country, WWL faces increasing demand for diagnostic services. MRI, for example, has seen a 15 per cent year on year increase in requests for imaging.
“During the course of the year we carry out in excess of a quarter of a million investigations. It is important to note that, these investigations are subject to season pressures, and unfortunately this is when some delays may occur.
“In recognition to these pressures, WWL prioritise requests for scans on clinical need, to ensure the most urgent patients receive priority appointments.”
The number of such investigations has risen steeply in recent years in response to growing demand.
But the proportion of patients missing the deadline - including potentially some with cancer - has doubled in 12 months to more than two per cent.
The MP for Leigh and shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “Every day, yet more evidence emerges showing an NHS heading seriously downhill.
“Patients are waiting longer for crucial tests - causing stress and real anguish for worried families.”
Macmillan Cancer Support said the NHS was “under strain” and there was a danger of cancer being “overlooked”.