The prime minister has come under fire from Labour after figures emerged showing the number of patients waiting over six weeks for diagnostic tests had risen.
Some 14,163 patients were still waiting for tests in April, up from 4,129 in the same month last year, according to official figures.
Shadow health secretary John Healey said: “Yesterday David Cameron pledged to keep waiting times low. He said ‘waiting times really matter’. These figures show he is breaking his NHS promises again, as long waiting times for tests have trebled during his year as prime minister.”
The Department of Health admitted that the increase was “disappointing”. But a spokeswoman stressed that the proportion of patients waiting long periods was still very low.
“Waiting times go up and they go down - but they remain broadly stable,” she said. “The average waiting time for diagnostic tests is still low at 2.3 weeks. This is despite increases in diagnostic test activity - the first four months of 2011 saw 230,000 - 4.7 per cent - more diagnostic tests than the same period last year.
“This increase in demand on the NHS shows exactly why we need to modernise the NHS to drive improvements in performance.”