Published: 13/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5905 Page 3

Patients in six acute hospitals are still waiting a year or more for a routine MRI scan, despite average times having fallen, according to research by health information specialists Dr Foster.

The Sunday Times Good Hospital Guide, published this weekend, shows that for 2002-03 average waiting times for routine MRI scans in the UK have fallen to 132 days, from 154 in 2001-02. The figures for England show average waiting times per hospital have fallen to 133 days, from 163 days.

Since the first survey two years previously, MRI waits worsened in 58 English hospitals and improved in 57.However, average waiting times have risen markedly in both Scotland and Wales - from 82 days to 121 days, and from 128 days to 193 days.

Walsall Hospitals trust's Manor Hospital quotes the longest wait of 550 days, however Tameside General Hospital; Royal Bolton Hospital; George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton; North Middlesex University Hospital; and Derby City General Hospital all quote waits of 365 days or more.

None of these hospitals are operating a 24-hour service.

Dr Foster research director Roger Taylor said: 'These are expensive machines and it seems difficult to justify such long waits, even for routine scans, when they are spending a lot of time not being used.'