Record medical test delays at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust as waiting times rocketed due to coronavirus
Patients faced record delays for a range of medical tests at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust in May, as hospitals across England saw waiting times rocket due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Medical experts warn growing waiting lists could spell trouble in the coming months as lockdown eases and referrals rise, with stark challenges facing health services.
NHS trusts report on wait times for 15 key tests at the end of each month, which are used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cancers, heart failure, and hearing problems.
According to NHS rules, after someone is referred for one of the tests, they should have it completed within six weeks.
But NHS England data shows 2,714 patients at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust had been waiting longer than that at the end of May.
At 54.5% of those on the waiting list, this was the worst performance for the month since comparable local records began in 2014.
The national standard is that fewer than 1% of patients should wait six weeks or more.
The previous May, the figure stood at just 455 patients (6.1%).
Of those who were not seen on time, 666 had been on the list at least 13 weeks.
Across England, hospitals saw a massive rise in the number of delays as Covid-19 hit services.
More than 570,000 patients (58.2%) had been waiting six weeks or more at the end of May, the most for any month since the target was introduced in 2008 – a year previously, there were just 43,000.
Imelda Redmond, national director of watchdog Healthwatch England, said the figures were not surprising given the need to focus limited resources on tackling Covid-19.
“However, the rise in the figures shows starkly the challenge facing the NHS,” she added.
“It is therefore vital that the NHS prioritises those with the most urgent and serious needs, as well as those who have been waiting a very long time for a diagnosis."
Dr Rebecca Fisher, from charity the Health Foundation, said the hold-ups “could be storing up trouble” for the health service.
She added: “The number of referrals is likely to rise rapidly in the coming months and the NHS faces a difficult trade-off between keeping staff and patients safe from Covid-19, and ensuring that people don’t come to harm as a result of delays.”
The most common type of test to see delays at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust in May was colonoscopy, which is useful as a check for certain bowel conditions – 718 people had been waiting at least six weeks.
This was followed by 579 patients waiting for an MRI scan, which produces detailed images of the inside of the body, and can help diagnose a range of conditions.
Another 441 people were held up for gastroscopy, which can be used to diagnose various problems with parts of the digestive system.
An NHS spokesman said: "Despite responding rapidly to the coronavirus pandemic and the need to ensure over 100,000 patients could receive hospital care, NHS staff also provided more than five million urgent tests, checks and treatment in a safe way during the peak of the virus.”