Weekend tests to cope with hospital demand

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Vital medical tests are being carried out at weekends in a bid to cut waiting times for patients.

Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust has performed hundreds of extra endoscopy tests and recruited a new member of staff as it addresses a rise in the number of people requiring the procedures.

The latest figures show the trust failed to meet the national targets for diagnostic tests in August.

Patients should be able to have 15 key tests within six weeks, but 1.44 per cent (79 people) had to wait for longer than that in August. The national standard is one per cent.

The number of people waiting for the tests rose by 5.5 per cent compared to the previous August, from 5,214 to 5,503.

There was a particular issue with endoscopy tests, which accounted for the most people waiting for longer than the six-week target.

Action is being taken by the trust to carry out more tests and help to cut the waiting times for patients in the borough.

A trust spokesman said: “Over the past six months, the endoscopy service has seen a 6.92 per cent increase in referrals to its service compared to the same period last year.

“In order to try and meet this level of demand, the service has put on additional capacity at a weekend and as a result have performed over 700 additional endoscopy procedures when compared to the same period last year.

“However, unfortunately as demand for the service continues to rise, the department does not currently have the apportioned level of medical capacity to satisfy this growing demand.

“In order to address this shortfall, the department has recruited an additional endoscopist to join the team, thus increasing the department’s capacity to sufficiently manage the current level of demand on the service.”

For gastroscopy, which looks at the oesophagus, stomach and part of the small intestine, 5.8 per cent of patients (20 people ) waited for more than six weeks. That included six people waiting for more than 13 weeks.

The performance for colonoscopy was 5.28 per cent, with 15 people waiting for more than six weeks including one for more than 13 weeks.

For flexi sigmoidoscopy, which looks at the large bowel, 10.59 per cent of patients (nine people) waited for more than six weeks, with one for more than 13 weeks.

These two tests can be used to diagnose bowel cancer.

In August, charity Bowel Cancer UK raised concerns about the wait for colonoscopy and flexi sigmoidoscopy appointments nationally and called on the Government to tackle the issue.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer, but it is treatable and curable if caught early. These tests can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease.