Key diagnostic waiting times have fallen by 97% in two years, Department of Health statistics reveal today.
The latest monthly figures show that the number of people waiting for diagnosis for over six weeks at the end of March was 12,900 - just over 3% of the total number of waits. This compares to 243,000 in March last year and 404,000 in April 2006, when the department started collected data.
This data is encouraging in terms of the government's 18-weeks policy, where by the end of the year people will have to wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment.
The key diagnostic tests include MRI and CT scans, audiology and gastro function tests.
Commenting on the reduction of audiology assessment waits, Care Services Minister, Ivan Lewis said:
"The NHS has made significant progress in reducing waits for hearing tests. Following the introduction of milestones two years ago, and the collection of this data, over 100,000 patients waited more than six weeks for a hearing test, and of these over 30,000 patients waited more than a year. Now the vast majority of patients receive their test within six weeks, and average waits are lower still.
"Some patients experience long waits for treatment and we have made it clear that the NHS will not be credible in claiming success on 18 weeks if it does not make excellent progress in tackling these waits."
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said:
"Faster diagnosis saves lives and reduces anxiety.
"When we first published diagnostics waiting times two years ago, the average expected waiting time was 6.8 weeks. Today it is 2.5 weeks and it continues to fall. This is a fantastic achievement by NHS staff. It will also help us reach our historic commitment that no-one will have to wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment by the end of this year."
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