PATIENTS are facing "shocking and shameful" delays for routine diagnostic tests, with figures revealing that one person in Grampian waited nearly five years for a CT scan.

Official guidelines stipulate that no one referred for one of eight key tests - including endoscopies, colonoscopies and scans - should wait longer than six weeks.

Patients with a suspected cancer are given highest priority, with the aim that their results should be carried out within two weeks, but even "routine" patients - such as a multiple sclerosis patient requiring an MRI scan - should be seen within six weeks.

However, figures on the longest NHS waits for key tests recorded in 2022 show that one patient who had a CT scan in the Grampian region last year had waited 258 weeks - or four years and 11 months.

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Another patient in the region who had an MRI scan had been on the waiting list for 255 weeks, while another person had waited 107 weeks for a non-obstetric ultrasound.

In NHS Tayside, one patient had waited 196 weeks for an upper endoscopy, and another had waited 154 weeks - or two years and 11 months - for a colonoscopy.

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, one patient had waited 187 weeks for a lower endoscopy, while another had spent more than two and a half years on the waiting list by the time they underwent a cystoscopy - a procedure to examine the inside of the bladder.

HeraldScotland: The number of people on waiting lists for endoscopy and radiology tests is much higher than it was in 2019, while the number of people being seen within six weeks is lower than it was pre-pandemicThe number of people on waiting lists for endoscopy and radiology tests is much higher than it was in 2019, while the number of people being seen within six weeks is lower than it was pre-pandemic (Image: PHS)

The figures were obtained through freedom of information requests by the Scottish Conservatives.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, a GP and Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: "These figures are shocking and shameful. These diagnostic tests are potentially life-saving so it is vital patients undergo them as quickly as possible.

“It is scarcely believable that certain patients have been waiting almost five years for one of these tests. These deeply concerning issues are not confined to one health board either, the lengthy delays are occurring right across Scotland."

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While these are the most extreme examples, patients on average are waiting longer now than before the pandemic.

By the end of September 2022, there were nearly 160,000 people waiting for one of the eight key tests compared to fewer than 88,000 in September 2019.

Of those on the lists by the end of September last year, three per cent - 5,458 people - had been waiting over a year. Prior to the first lockdown, waits of over 92 days were considered extreme.

Dr Gulhane repeated calls for Humza Yousaf to be sacked, saying his tenure as Health Secretary "has been a disaster for suffering patients and over-stretched staff".

HeraldScotland:

HeraldScotland: In September 2019 (top) waits of over 92 days were extreme; by September 2022 (above), thousands were waiting over 365 days for tests and scansIn September 2019 (top) waits of over 92 days were extreme; by September 2022 (above), thousands were waiting over 365 days for tests and scans (Image: PHS)

The call is echoed by Scottish Labour, who pointed to statistics showing a deterioration on a number of key targets in the 600 days since Mr Yousaf took on the role in May 2021.

These include a 31% drop in performance against the A&E four-hour target; a 66% increase in the number of bed days lost to delayed discharge; and a 29% increase in NHS workforce vacancies, to 7,964.

Scottish Labour Health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said Mr Yousaf "needs to go".

She added: “After 600 days in the job we have been left with a string of grim new records and the worst winter in NHS history. Things are getting worse, not better."

READ MORE: What's the point of waiting times targets when many haven't been met in years? 

It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepares to front a second emergency briefing on the NHS today, accompanied by Mr Yousaf and chief medical officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith.

Last week, the Scottish Government unveiled plans to spend £8 million on 300 extra interim social care beds in a drive to get patients out of hospital faster and relieve pressure on A&E departments.

There are around 1,700 people in hospital who are medically fit for discharge, but delayed - primarily due to a lack of social care - leading to gridlock in A&E. In the week ending January 1, a record 2,500 people spent over 12 hours in Scotland's emergency departments.

Similar trends are playing out across the UK.

HeraldScotland: In November, nearly 2000 beds a day on average were occupied by patients whose discharge had been delayedIn November, nearly 2000 beds a day on average were occupied by patients whose discharge had been delayed (Image: PHS)

Mr Yousaf said the NHS is battling its "most challenging winter yet".

He added: "We are determined to clear the backlog of planned care appointments caused by the pandemic and have set ambitious targets to ensure patients waiting too long are seen more quickly.

“Health Boards have developed plans to increase capacity, workforce and activity. Six mobile MRI and five mobile CT scanners will help people get the diagnostic tests they need and additional activity throughout the week including weekends, such as weekend Endoscopy sessions, will help reduce diagnostic waits.

“Our £70 million Endoscopy and Urology Diagnostic Recovery and Renewal plan is increasing capacity and supporting workforce training. Mobile Endoscopy Units are providing access to an additional 6 endoscopy rooms.”