• Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT warned GPs to expect average waits of 15 weeks or more for routine CT, MRI and ultrasound scans
  • Trust prioritising suspected cancer cases
  • Services overwhelmed by 30 per cent increase in referrals, despite investment in new scanners

England’s largest hospital trust has written to GPs warning their patients face 15-week waits for routine MRIs, ultrasound and CT scans.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust in central London said it was prioritising suspected cancer and other “urgent cases”, meaning “unfortunately waiting times for routine patients are now an average of 15-16 weeks for an appointment against a target of six weeks”.

This is much worse than national averages, which December figures showed were 3.2 weeks, 2.5 weeks and 3.3 weeks for MRI, CT and ultrasound waits respectively.

It its letter to GPs in Lambeth and Southwark – its main patches – GSTT said: “Current imaging referral demand outstrips capacity, despite these services consistently delivering near 120 per cent levels of activity compared to 2019-20.

“The radiology service is exploring multiple routes to increase imaging capacity, including increased weekend working, insourcing and outsourcing contracts, but there is still a significant shortfall of slots every week.”

In particular, it said primary care staff should expect long waits for the reporting of routine MRI scans.

In a statement the trust, which runs Guy’s Cancer Centre, said it had seen an increase in referrals, both from GPs and internally, of up to 30 per cent. It had bought two extra MRI scanners, which had been deployed in the Mary Seacole Imaging Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital, but they had not reduced waits.

It added: “Approximately 20,000 MRI, CT, X-ray scans are reported each month. As a result of the current delays, we have identified one confirmed case of moderate harm. Duty of candour has been carried out.”

The national diagnostics waiting list has grown by around 50 per cent, to 1.5m, between December 2019 and December 2023. The volume of procedures carried out increased by roughly 10 per cent over the same period.

There is a national target for 99 per cent of referrals to wait no longer than six weeks, but this has not been met since November 2013. In December 2023, 26.8 per cent of patients waited more than six weeks, a figure which has fluctuated between 23.3 per cent and 30.8 per cent over the past 12 months.