HEALTH: ‘Shocking and shameful’ waits for diagnostic tests exposed

Patient in local health board area waited 187 weeks for a lower endoscopy

Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

By Lucy Ashton

Patients are having to wait years to undergo crucial routine diagnostic tests under Humza Yousaf’s stewardship of the NHS, the Scottish Conservatives can expose today.

Freedom of Information requests from the party have revealed ‘shocking and shameful’ waits for patients in various areas across Scotland to undergo one of the eight key tests that Public Health Scotland publish data on.

The responses show that patients in NHS Grampian have had to wait almost five years to undergo tests. The longest recorded wait in NHS Grampian in 2022 was 258 weeks for a CT scan, while another patient in that health board waited 255 weeks for a MRI scan.

Another patient in NHS Grampian also waited 107 weeks for a non-obstetric ultrasound, the longest wait for that kind of diagnostic test.

Elsewhere in NHS Tayside, a patient waited almost 200 weeks for an upper endoscopy and another patient in that health board also waited over 150 weeks to undergo a colonoscopy.

The responses received by the Scottish Conservatives also show that a patient in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde waited 187 weeks for a lower endoscopy and another waited 145 weeks for a cystoscopy.

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane says the figures highlight a ‘ticking time bomb’ within Scotland’s NHS on Humza Yousaf’s watch and that these ‘scarcely believable’ waits are putting patients’ lives at risk.

He added that while these are the most extreme waits, there is a general trend of more and more patients waiting to undergo one of the eight diagnostic tests as a result of SNP failures.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “These figures are shocking and shameful. These diagnostic tests are potentially life-saving so it is vital patients undergo them as quickly as possible.

“It is scarcely believable that certain patients have been waiting almost five years for one of these tests. These deeply concerning issues are not confined to one health board either, the lengthy delays are occurring right across Scotland.

“Frankly there is a ticking time-bomb within our NHS. Lives are literally on the line, especially if patients have been waiting years to be seen.

“The number of patients waiting on a key diagnostic test has now soared past 150,000 under the stewardship of Humza Yousaf. His flimsy NHS recovery plan which is now well over a year old has failed to re-mobilise frontline services like lifeline cancer services.

“Patients are suffering longer and longer delays as a result of his inaction, often with no end in sight. Successive SNP health secretaries’ failures on workforce planning are coming home to roost and nothing Humza Yousaf has done since he has been in post has improved that situation.

“The SNP have not met the target waiting times for all cancer patients to begin cancer treatment for a decade. They cannot hide behind the pandemic as an excuse for their overwhelming failures.

“The Scottish Conservatives have exposed deep-rooted issues at the very heart of our NHS and the buck stops with Humza Yousaf. His tenure as health secretary has been a disaster for suffering patients and over-stretched staff. He must be sacked now.”

  • Public Health Scotland has 8 key diagnostic tests which it publishes data on. These are: upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy (excl. colonoscopy), colonoscopy, cystoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasound. (NHS waiting times – diagnostics, 29 November 2022, link). 
  • People in Grampian are waiting almost 5 years for routine diagnostic tests. The longest recorded wait in Grampian for a CT scan in 2022 was 258 weeks, equivalent to 4 years and 11 months. Someone also waited 255 weeks for an MRI, and 107 weeks for a non-obstetric ultrasound, all the longest waits for that kind of diagnostic test. (Scottish Conservative FOI, Available on request, 10 January 2023).   
  • Patients in NHS Tayside are waiting around three years for routine diagnostic tests. A patient at NHS Tayside waited 196 weeks for an upper endoscopy, whilst another waited 154 weeks for a colonoscopy, equivalent to 3 years 9 months and 2 years 11 months respectively. (Scottish Conservative FOI, Available on request, 10 January 2023).   
  • Patients in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are waiting around three years for routine diagnostic tests. A patient at NHS GGC waited 187 weeks for a lower endoscopy and another waited 145 weeks for a cystoscopy, equivalent to 3 years 7 months and 2 years 7 months respectively. (Scottish Conservative FOI, Available on request, 10 January 2023).

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