Diagnostic imaging network

Patient waiting times for some diagnostic tests have improved because imaging services are being delivered as a collaborative network across the four hospital trusts in Lancashire and South Cumbria. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, 47% of patients were waiting over six weeks for their CT and MRI scans. This has now reduced to below 1% because the trusts are working extremely hard to ensure patients have better access to diagnostics no matter where they live.

Part of this involves offering patients whose nearest hospital has longer waits access to a scan more quickly at a hospital with a smaller waiting list. This means some patients are travelling further to be seen more quickly.

The Diagnostic Imaging Network (opens in new window), made up of the four hospital trusts (Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust), provides the following imaging scans: CT, MRI, X-Ray, DEXA, radionuclide and non-obstetric ultrasound.

By working together, elective imaging activity across the Network has increased. As of 31 March 2023 our network is delivering 137% MRI and 150% CT scanning activity compared to pre-COVID levels in 2019/20.

Jack Smith, LSC Director for Diagnostics, said:

“We have seen a dramatic improvement in patient waiting times for diagnostic imaging tests as a result of the trusts working together, deploying much needed additional scanners and technologies, and offering extended services in the evenings and weekends to increase activity levels. By getting tested more quickly, patients are able to receive more timely care and achieve better health outcomes.

“In addition, by working as a network and sharing good practice and resources, the services are becoming more resilient. More investment is required for additional frontline staff and training, however, if we are to meet the predicted growth in demand for imaging testing in the future.”

In addition to the hospital-based Diagnostic Imaging Network, a network of four community-based diagnostic centre hubs (CDCs) has been established in Morecambe Bay (Westmorland), Pennine Lancashire (Rossendale), Central Lancashire (Preston Healthport) and Blackpool (Whitegate Drive). Additional spoke centres are also being set up in Fleetwood, Barrow-in-Furness and Burnley.

As of April 2023, more than 130,000 tests had been carried out in CDCs since July 2021. A large proportion of these are additional CT and MRI scans which are being carried out safely in new mobile units. The CDC programme is nationally funded for three years and is helping patients with suspected cancer, heart and respiratory conditions to receive appropriate care.

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