RCR: Patients are waiting longer for imaging results

The problem of delays in delivering imaging test results to U.K. patients has worsened compared with just six months ago, according to a new report issued by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).

Imaging exam delays have been a persistent problem in the National Health Service (NHS), and the RCR has tried to shed light on the problem by tracking the number of patients who have to wait longer than 30 days for a report from a radiologist. The society's October 2014 report surveyed 25% of the NHS radiology departments in England, finding that some 300,000 patients could be waiting a month or more for their imaging results.

The RCR conducted an updated survey in February 2015, finding that the problem may now be even worse. With 71% of the 121 NHS trusts reporting, the RCR found the number of patients waiting more than 30 days for an imaging report may now exceed 330,000 across England. Reports for 257,158 x-ray studies were delayed longer than 30 days, as well as 3,277 MRI reports, and 2,833 CT exams.

The RCR said the problem is caused by a chronic shortage of radiologists in the U.K.: The country has about 48 radiologists per 1 million population, which compares with 92 in Germany, 112 in Spain, and 130 in France. The number of U.K. radiologists has increased slowly over the past five years.

In addition to recruiting, however, the country's current radiologist workforce could be better utilized, the report stated. Creating networks that would allow groups of radiologists to provide services to a population beyond just a single hospital would ameliorate the problem, but there are barriers in place that prevent such a service model from developing.

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