Waits for medical tests at Wigan's hospitals slowly begin to lessen

Fewer patients at Wigan’s hospitals had been waiting more than three months for medical tests at the end of April, figures show.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 11:59 am
Updated Monday, 28th June 2021, 12:00 pm

NHS trusts report waiting times for 15 key tests at the end of each month, which are used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions.

According to NHS rules, after someone is referred for one of these tests, it should be completed within six weeks.

But NHS Digital data shows 60 people had been waiting at least 13 weeks at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) at the end of April.

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NHS trusts report waiting times for 15 key tests at the end of each month, which are used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions
NHS trusts report waiting times for 15 key tests at the end of each month, which are used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions

This was a drop from the 138 patients who had been waiting this long in March, and it was 553 fewer than the 613 patients who had experienced such delays at the same time last year.

Across England, 136,200 patients had been waiting 13 weeks or more for tests at the end of April – more than four times the 31,200 a year earlier.

Health think tank the Nuffield Trust said NHS staff are continuing to work under pressure to make a dent in the “troubling backlog” of tests nationally.

Sarah Scobie, the trust’s deputy director of research, said urgent non-coronavirus demand is growing rapidly amid the easing of restrictions in England, but added hospitals could see another rise in Covid admissions as new infections surge.

She added: “Rising cases and early signs of more hospitalisations in Delta variant hotspots are a real concern.

“If Covid-19 demand rises alongside growing non-coronavirus need, the NHS will be forced again to do more with less given the reduction in bed numbers due to social distancing and ongoing staff exhaustion and shortages.”

The figures also show that 621 of WWL patients had been waiting six weeks or more for medical tests at the end of April – more than 417 in March, but down from 5,186 in April 2020.

Overall, a total of 5,980 patients were waiting for key diagnostic tests at the end of April.

WWL deputy chief executive Mary Fleming said: “It remains a challenging time for all our services, but through careful planning and temporary, additional capacity brought in to work through the backlog of patients, we are starting to see positive progress with waiting times for certain diagnostic tests.

“We have a long way to go yet, and patients are being treated in clinical priority order, which means some people will wait longer to be seen.

“We are extremely grateful for the understanding we have received from our patients and we would like to reassure people that we are continuing to address waiting times, in line with other hospitals across Greater Manchester.”

NHS England said operations and other routine care were ahead of ambitions nationally.

A spokesman said waiting times for diagnostic tests also fell to a median average of 2.7 weeks in April – down from a peak of 8.6 in May last year.

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