Labour calls for plan to clear NHS backlog as new analysis shows Covid-19 response causing huge delays for vital scans and diagnostic tests

The Labour Party is  calling for a new resourced plan for the NHS so that services can re-open quickly and safely.

In an Opposition Day Debate in the house of commons, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, will force a vote calling for a plan to deal with the backlog of care currently building up in the NHS, routine weekly testing programme for NHS and Social Care staff to enable routine NHS services to safely resume, and a functional, national test, trace and isolate system to be operational ahead of the upcoming busy winter period.

Labour has previously called for testing to be expanded beyond symptomatic carriers, so that all NHS and care staff are regularly tested once a week to help infection control and so services can be safely reopened.

The call comes as new analysis from the Labour Party highlight the increasing backlog of care building up in the health service, with an increasing number of patients waiting too long for life saving scans and tests.

Figures published by NHS England show that of the 840,742 people waiting for diagnostic tests, 468,622 are waiting more than 6 weeks for diagnostic tests. More than half, (55.7 per cent) of patients were waiting longer than six weeks for vital diagnostic tests in April 2020. In February 2020, before the pandemic hit, this was 2.8 per cent (29,832 people).

Between February 2020 and April 2020, the figures show that the number of patients waiting over 6 weeks for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), used to detect tumours throughout the body, increased by over 70,000 people. The number of people waiting for an MRI increased from 5,733 to 78,932, an increase of 1,277 per cent since February 2020. 

Likewise, the number of patients waiting over 6 weeks for:

· A Colonoscopy, used to detect bowel cancer, has increased by 520 per cent (5,234 to 32,430)

· A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, also used to detect bowel cancer, has increased by 722 per cent (1,820 to 14,957)

· A Cystoscopy, used to detect bladder cancer, has increased by 545 per cent (1,270 to 8,190)

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Ministers tell us the NHS has ‘coped’ through the Covid-19 peak but that was on the back of cancelled operations, delayed scans and diagnostic tests.

“Estimates suggest two million people are waiting for cancer screening, tests or treatment and that 1600 cases of cancer are currently left undiagnosed every month.

“It’s now urgent ministers bring forward a plan to tackle the backlog in non Covid-19 care. A vital component would be the introduction of weekly routine testing of all NHS staff to keep them and patients safe from Covid-19 while receiving treatment. We’re calling on MPs to support this motion to tackle the rapidly growing queues of their constituents waiting for treatment”.

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