By Democrat reporter
Scottish Labour has branded waiting times for key diagnostic tests as a “catastrophe waiting to happen”, saying they show that health services are in danger of being overwhelmed, as new figures reveal thousands of people are waiting far longer than they should.
New data published today from Public Health Scotland shows that at 31 December 2020, 100,913 patients were waiting to be seen for one of eight key diagnostic tests, which include endoscopies and radiology scans – an increase of 15.3% compared to the same time the previous year.
Of those waiting at 31 December 2020, 44.1 per cent had waited longer than the target six weeks. The longest waits were experienced by patients requiring an endoscopy, with 18.5 per cent of patients on the list waiting between 39 and 52 weeks and 1,236 patients who had waited over 52 weeks.
A standard waiting time of six weeks was set by the Scottish Government in 2009 for diagnostic tests to aid early detection of conditions like cancer or brain tumours. Scottish Labour has said that the failure to meet those targets shows that the NHS is at risk of collapsing under a tidal wave of serious health conditions due to delays in diagnosis.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie, left, said: “These figures are a catastrophe waiting to happen and demonstrate the consistent failure of the SNP to deliver healthcare on time and when needed.
“A route plan out of lockdown will depend heavily on a functioning NHS that can handle the health problems that were stored up throughout the pandemic, but with so many missed targets it is hard to see how health services will cope.
“It is a blow for the thousands of people who will suffer because of a delayed diagnosis and will miss vital treatment for serious illness.
“Thanks to SNP mismanagement, our health services are at risk of collapse. We must have a clear route to fully re-open health services now, and a competent government that can deliver it.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour is calling on the First Minister to put a beefed-up testing system – including mass asymptomatic community testing – at the centre of her plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions.
Scottish Labour believes Scotland needs a new testing strategy that delivers:
- Asymptomatic community testing across every local authority, and across all of Scotland’s major cities
- Continued routine testing for health and social care staff
- A testing plan for airports and genomic sequencing of all tests of incoming travellers to identify new variants
- Contingency plans for surge and doorstep testing should new variants be identified
- A targeting of testing capacity to workplaces and industries that are key to the economy and/or where social distancing is more difficult, such as schools, manufacturing and construction
- Routine testing of all identified contacts of positive cases, e.g. twice during their self-isolation period
- Lateral flow testing to support the return of large public events
Jackie Baillie said: “Scottish Labour has long made the case that the route through and out of the pandemic will depend on following international advice and hunting down the virus with testing.
“Infection rates are now being driven down by a combination of lockdown measures and the roll out of the vaccine – but keeping infection rates low will depend on rapidly identifying and containing any outbreaks. That is why we are calling for a renewed emphasis on testing – including asymptomatic community testing on a mass scale.
“The SNP government has so far failed to maximise the use of Scotland’s testing capacity. New announcements on testing of contacts and community testing are welcome – but the roll-out has been far too slow. Weeks after the First Minister announced the government would be expanding testing, there is little urgency about making this a reality on the ground.
“The First Minister and the Health Secretary need to get a grip – testing will be key to helping to control the virus and allowing the economy to open up again.”
Research teams working hard on testing and research into Covid 19 virus.