Trusts' last-minute push to hit an audiology assessment target has led to a dramatic fall in waiting times for diagnostic services.

The numbers of patients waiting more than six or 13 weeks for one of the 15 key diagnostic tests tracked by the Department of Health halved in both cases between the end of January and the end of February.

Trusts have been expected to provide the 15 tests, which include audiology assessments, MRI and CT scans and cardiology assessments, within six weeks since the end of March. But progress had been impeded by massive backlogs in audiology.

The DH figures show that the number waiting more than 13 weeks for the 15 tests at the end of February was 8,400 - a fall of 8,400 on the previous month and 94.1 per cent less than the year before. Of the 8,400 patients still waiting, 4,400 required audiology assessment. Waits of more than six weeks were down to 33,100 - 34,400 less than January and 88 per cent less than the previous year.