The NHS hospital treatment backlog in England has reached a new record
The NHS will receive £248 million funding over the next year for technology to tackle the record waiting list backlog.
Digital diagnostics services across the NHS will be reformed to increase the efficiency of sharing tests, images and results between hospitals, labs and GP surgeries, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The Government said this will lead to quicker detection of illnesses and reduce waiting times for treatment.
The NHS hospital treatment backlog in England has reached a new record, with the number of people waiting more than two years rising to nearly 10,000.
A total of 5.7 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of August, according to figures from NHS England.
Under the new computer system, X-ray experts will be able to review high-resolution images remotely 24 hours a day without needing to be in an imaging laboratory.
The funding will also enable GPs to choose the most suitable type of scan for their patient based on their symptoms and medical history, saving them having to make requests to radiologists.
It is part of previous funding allocated to the NHS in the 2020 Spending Review.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the funding will help “drive up efficiency” in the NHS.
He said: “Today’s multimillion-pound investment will play a big role in levelling up diagnostics services across the country so patients can get faster results and healthcare professionals can get their job done more easily, reducing unnecessary administrative burden and making every taxpayers’ pound count.
“Getting a faster diagnosis for a health condition is the first step to getting more people the treatment they need and earlier on, and our funding will help ensure our NHS has access to the latest digital technology to drive up efficiency.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said the number of patients waiting for diagnostic tests has already fallen for the first time in a year.
He said: “NHS staff are making efficient use of additional funding, and following the recent rollout of new diagnostic centres the number of patients waiting for a diagnostic test is falling for the first time in a year, meaning more people are getting the checks they need and, if required, are able to begin treatment sooner.”
More than 1.5 billion diagnostics tests, which are used to confirm or rule out health conditions, are carried out each year in England.
Recovering diagnostics services is the first step towards tackling the NHS backlog and reducing waiting times, the DHSC has said.
The funding follows recommendations from Professor Sir Mike Richards’ independent review of NHS diagnostics.