Patients at one of the largest trusts in England face 15-week wait for routine scans

GPs have been warned by Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Foundation Trust it is prioritising imaging appointments for cancer and urgent care patients

Published: 16 February 2024 Imaging

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has told GPs to expect average wait times of 15 weeks or more for routine CT, MRI and ultrasound scans as it prioritises cancer and urgent care patients.

The trust said it has been overwhelmed by an increase in referrals, despite its recent investments in two extra MRI scanners, which had been deployed in the Mary Seacole Imaging Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital, as reported by the Health Service Journal on 13 February.

The hospital, one of the largest in England, has experienced a 30 per cent spike in referrals.

'Exploring options for increasing capacity'

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said: “Due to a significant increase in GP and internal referrals, the trust is prioritising the delivery of imaging appointments and reporting for cancer and other urgent patients. 

“This means that we are unfortunately experiencing some delays for routine imaging appointments and reports. We continue to explore options for increasing capacity, and have already introduced additional weekend lists and purchased two new MRI scanners.”

In the letter to GPs in Lambeth and Southwark, the trust explained the current demand outstrips capacity despite consistent delivery of nearly 120 per cent levels of activity, compared to 2019/20.

It added: “The radiology service is exploring multiple routes to increase imaging capacity, including increased weekend working, insourcing and outsourcing contracts, but there is still a significant shortfall of slots every week.”

Immediate workplace reform

Approximately 20,000 MRI, CT and X-Ray scans are reported every month at the trust.

December’s NHS figures showed national averages stood at 3.2 weeks (MRI), 2.5 weeks (CT), and 3.3 weeks (ultrasound).

The national diagnostic waiting list has grown to around 1.5 million (around 50 per cent increase) from December 2019 to December 2023, while the volume of procedures has grown by just 10 per cent over that same period.

Following the release of the NHS diagnostic waiting list numbers earlier this month, the SoR has urged once more for government to implement workplace reform in order to alleviate the pressures on radiographers.

Dean Rogers, director of industrial strategy for the SoR, said at the time: “Over 400,000 people still waiting more than 6 weeks, more than a quarter of all those referred for a scan, is far too many. It is disappointing but not surprising. The Society of Radiographers has pointed out repeatedly that NHS waiting lists cannot be reduced without addressing the chronic shortage of radiography professionals in the workforce.”