Three in five patients would be willing to pay for private testing to get a faster diagnosis amid NHS delays, a report reveals.

More than 415,000 people had been waiting longer than the six week target for a key diagnostic check in December, according to NHS England data.

Now a new survey by the Patients Association reveals people want better access to early and accurate tests and scans.

Some 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay to get a test done if they faced a long wait or the test they needed was not available on the health service, even including those who would not consider themselves ‘rich’.

More than three in five (61 per cent) believe being able to test for some conditions at home would help speed up the process.

Some 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay to get a test done if they faced a long wait or the test they needed was not available on the health service, even including those who would not consider themselves 'rich'. Pictured, one of England's new community diagnostic centres (CDCs), Wood Green Community Diagnostic Centre in The Mall Shopping Centre

Some 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay to get a test done if they faced a long wait or the test they needed was not available on the health service, even including those who would not consider themselves ‘rich’. Pictured, one of England’s new community diagnostic centres (CDCs), Wood Green Community Diagnostic Centre in The Mall Shopping Centre

The Patients Association, in partnership with Roche Diagnostics, questioned 1,177 people from the UK who had received diagnostic support from the NHS in the preceding six months. It revealed 'several challenges' experienced by patients in gaining access to diagnostic tests and showed they also want a better understanding of why each check is necessary

The Patients Association, in partnership with Roche Diagnostics, questioned 1,177 people from the UK who had received diagnostic support from the NHS in the preceding six months. It revealed ‘several challenges’ experienced by patients in gaining access to diagnostic tests and showed they also want a better understanding of why each check is necessary

And nine in ten (90 per cent) said it should be more straightforward to get the diagnostic tests they need. 

The Patients Association, in partnership with Roche Diagnostics, questioned 1,177 people from the UK who had received diagnostic support from the NHS in the preceding six months.

It revealed ‘several challenges’ experienced by patients in gaining access to diagnostic tests and showed they also want a better understanding of why each check is necessary.

One-third of respondents (33 per cent) said when they tried to get a test, there were no appointments available locally.

Almost four in five patients (78 per cent) felt testing facilities should be provided closer to home to make access easier.

What do the latest NHS figures show? 

The overall waiting list shrunk by 6,266 to 7.6million in December. 

There were 282 people waiting more than two years to start, up from 227 in November. 

The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 337,450, down slightly on the 355,412 in the previous month.

Some 54,308 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in January. The figure is up from 44,045 in December.

A total of 158,721 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in January, up from 148,282 in December.

Just 70.3 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.

And seven in ten (70 per cent) wanted a clearer understanding of how to access checks.

Only one in ten people (11 per cent) said they never had any issues getting either a test or their results, or faced no consequences if they did.

For those living with long-term conditions, delays and difficulties in accessing diagnosis have had significant consequences.

Nearly one in five (17 per cent) said their long-term recovery was set back significantly.

Many more reported consequences for their mental and physical health, and their wider work and family life.

Respondents were also unhappy about a lack of access to, and clear explanation of, test results.

Almost nine in ten (88 per cent) wanted a realistic timeline for their test results to come through and a similar number (87 per cent) called for a better explanation of what those results meant for them and their treatment.

NHS figures show 416,889 patients, 26.8 per cent of the total, were waiting longer than six weeks for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy in December, the latest month available.

The figure is up from 375,151 (23.3 per cent of the total) in November, but lower than the equivalent figure for December 2022, which was 481,924 (31.3 per cent).

The NHS elective recovery plan sets the ambition that 95 per cent of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by March 2025.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Patients value diagnostic services – that’s very clear from the survey.

‘Frustrations about access to tests came over loud and clear. Those taking the survey clearly value being partners in their care.

‘And to partner with the professionals sending them for tests, patients need and want clear communication on how to get tests, why they need a test, and when they’ll get results.

‘Healthcare professionals can improve patient-centred care when ordering diagnostic tests by explaining how, why and when.’

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