Fewer Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust patients are waiting too long for medical tests

But the delay for diagnostic appointments was well up from the same point last year

Friday, 18th June 2021, 4:14 pm

Fewer patients at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust had been waiting more than three months for medical tests at the end of April, figures show.

But the trust is still facing a significant backlog, with the number of patients waiting too long for diagnostic appointments well up from the same point last year.

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.

Bedford Hospital
Bedford Hospital

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

But NHS Digital data shows 1,160 people had been waiting at least 13 weeks at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at the end of April.

Although this was a drop of 3 per cent from the 1,191 patients who had been waiting this long in March, it was significantly more than the 41 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 3,090 of Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust patients had been waiting six weeks or more for medical tests at the end of April – more than 2,812 in March, but down from 5,909 in April 2020.

Overall, a total of 13,061 patients were waiting for key diagnostic tests at the end of April.

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.