Brain scan waiting times up at Wigan Infirmary

A brain scanner
A brain scanner

Patients are waiting longer than they did last year for brain scans at Wigan Infirmary.

The latest NHS England data shows that 220 people were referred for an MRI scan at Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust in June.

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On average, those patients had to wait 15 days, from the date of the request to the scan. This is up from an average 11-day wait in June 2017.

MRI scans are used to detect brain cancer, among other illnesses.

Across England, waiting times increased for ultrasounds and CT scans on the chest, as well as MRI imaging.

Dr Caroline Rubin, vice-president for clinical radiology at the Royal College of Radiologists, said trusts were short staffed and under-equipped.

"There are not enough radiographers to do these scans, and equipment is at capacity, so even if we had more staff they wouldn’t have equipment to use,” she said.

But Andrew Beatty, WWL directorate manager for radiology and cancer services, said: “Radiology at WWL doesn’t currently have any consultant radiologist vacancies and only a couple of radiographer vacancies, which we are confident of filling.

“Our equipment is all in service life, still supported by the manufacturer, and our oldest scanner is an MR scanner which is 13 years old and due to be upgraded/replaced next year.

"However, we are faced with scanning more and more patients every year with the same levels of equipment and staffing.

“WWL aims to complete scans based on patient need.

“It is somewhat misleading to simply look at the performance for a single body part, in this case the brain. What is more important is the level of urgency for a particular scan.

“Some brain scans, for example, might be for reasons than cancer and may not be classed as urgent, whereas urgent cancer scans may be done in a couple of days.

“The Government has a target of six-week access to diagnostic imaging and radiology achieves this 100 per cent of the time (October 2018 data). Patients of WWL should be reassured that all urgent cancer requests for imaging are performed in the shortest time possible to avoid delays in treatment.

"This is supported by the trust’s fantastic cancer performance against national standards.”

WWL patients had to wait longer for CT scans on their chests and abdomens, less time for kidney and bladder scans and less for ultrasounds.