PERFORMANCE: Portsmouth University Hospitals Trust has launched a recruitment drive after failing to meet a target on diagnostic waiting times, recording more than double the allowed breaches for a year in the first month of 2011-12.

The target was for no more than 100 cases in 2011-12 of a patient waiting longer than six weeks for key diagnostic work, including colonoscopies, non-obstetric ultrasounds, and CT and MRI scans.

But the trust recorded 223 breaches in April alone.

The target was set out in the South Central Strategic Health Authority’s compliance framework for the year.

The trust’s monthly performance report in its May board papers said the target “is subject to ongoing discussion” with commissioners, and has not been reflected in the hospital’s contract.

The report says that of the 223 breaches, 39.5 per cent were colonoscopies, 22 per cent were non-obstetric ultrasounds, and 13.9 per cent were echocardiographies. The rest were MRI scans, CT scans, and other tests.

The trust said it was under increased pressure due to a reduction in MRI capacity in the independent sector.

Ultrasound and echocardiography pressures are due to “technician availability” and increasing demand, and recruitment of new staff in those areas has begun.

Pressure on colonoscopy and gastroscopy is due to a combination of increasing referrals, national campaigns such as bowel screening, and reduced private sector capacity. Plans are in place to increase “procedure and staffing capacity”.

Although an overarching recovery plan is being developed and implemented, capacity in MRI and ultrasound remains a risk.