HUNDREDS of patients are waiting up to eight months for diagnostic tests – breaching the Scottish Government’s 18-week guarantee.
The Grampian patients, who are at risk of suffering bone fractures, are being forced to wait for a scan to detect osteoporosis at a clinic in Aberdeen.
NHS Grampian yesterday confirmed at least 550 patients had waited longer than the 18-week guarantee because of a backlog in testing caused by a broken scanner.
The Scottish Government described the delays as “unacceptable” and revealed it would be speaking with managers at the board as a “matter of urgency” to ensure patients are tested as soon as possible. All 14 of Scotland’s health boards were ordered to review their practices earlier this year following concerns that a manipulation of waiting times uncovered at NHS Lothian may have been more widespread.
The clinic where the tests are carried out sees an average of 3,500 patients a year.
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “Regrettably, some patients referred on a non- urgent basis will have had to wait up to eight months for a scan as a result of damage to one of our scanners.
“There are a number of patients who we acknowledge have been waiting much longer than we would wish for. We are urgently looking at a number of ways to alleviate this, including mobile scanners in the community, and we are actively exploring the possibility of sourcing scanning facilities in alternative locations.”
She said the broken scanner had recently been replaced and staff were hoping to reduce waiting times to a maximum of 14 weeks, with any urgent referrals seen within a month.
The Scottish Government said diagnostic scans were part of its flagship 18-week referral- to-treatment guarantee.
A spokeswoman said: “We would expect NHS Grampian to explore all options to reduce exceptionally long waits for patients. This includes exploring the use of additional capacity from another board or the independent sector, and we will be raising this with them as a matter of urgency.”
Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie described the eight-month waiting time as “just extraordinary”.
She said: “These are very basic errors. They shouldn’t be happening – there are guidelines.
“We’ve seen waiting lists in the past that have been just too long, but if you want waiting lists to be real and meaningful, and not simply a game of manipulation of figures, then you need to resource them appropriately. If a scanner has broken down, there should be the resources there to fix it.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: “I am stunned at what can only be seen as a systematic failure of process across NHS Grampian.
“These are vital tests which can be a huge source of stress to people’s lives. This is yet another scandal in yet another NHS board.”