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Waits rise after 18-week target scrapped

By Lilian Anekwe

The number of people waiting for diagnostic tests has increased since the coalition Government scrapped the 18-week referral-to-treatment target, new figures show.

The latest referral-to-treatment statistics released by the Department of Health show the number of people waiting more than six weeks for MRI scans, ultrasounds and other key diagnostic tests rose from 3,109 to 5,795 between June and August, an 86% increase.

The 18-week target, along with 48-hour-access to a GP, was one of the first to be scrapped after the new coalition Government announced in June that it would no longer performance-manage hospital trust performance.

Since then, 1,474 people referred for ultrasounds have been left waiting more than six weeks, the figures show. 871 waited more than six weeks for MRI and CAT scans, 710 for colonoscopies and 463 for echocardiograms.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said the Government’s decision to scrap the target was putting patients at risk.

‘This dramatic rise in waiting times is what you get with a Government quick to abandon patient guarantees, while failing to think through the consequences.’

A spokesperson for the DH said median waiting times for diagnostic tests had increased only slightly, from 1.7 to 1.9 weeks over the period between June and August.

Waits have increased since hospital targets were scrapped