News story

NHS diagnostics waiting times and activity data – November 2012

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Data are published on waiting times and activity for 15 key diagnostic tests for the month of November 2012.


The key points are:

  • At the end of November 2012, there were 654,000 patients still waiting for one of 15 key diagnostic tests, and of these 4,653 were waiting 6 weeks or over from referral.  The number waiting 6 weeks or longer shows an increase of 750 from October 2012, and a decrease of 1,800 from November 2011.

  • The 4,653 waiting over 6 weeks or longer represents 0.7% of all patients waiting for a test.  This compares to 0.6% at the end of October 2012 and 1.1% at the end of November 2011.

  • In total, 1,491,000 of the 15 key diagnostic tests were performed during November 2012, which is an increase of 97,000 on same period last year. 

  • Tables 1 and 2 show latest figures on waiting times and activity by test. Table 3 and Graph 1 show trends in waiting times for diagnostic tests.

Detailed tables by provider and commissioner can be found on the Department of Health website.  

Annex A - Detailed Tables

Table 1 - Diagnostic waiting times by test - November 2012

Test Total number waiting at month end Number waiting six weeks or more at month end Percentage of patients waiting six weeks or more Average (median) waiting time (in weeks)
MRI 138,589 428 0.3% 1.9
CT 78,723 185 0.2% 1.4
NON_OBSTETRIC_ULTRASOUND 222,273 592 0.3% 1.7
BARIUM_ENEMA 2,163 0 0.0% 1.2
DEXA_SCAN 17,561 41 0.2% 1.6
AUDIOLOGY_ASSESSMENTS 37,042 462 1.2% 2.0
ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY 41,418 427 1.0% 2.1
ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY 1,581 4 0.3% 1.6
PERIPHERAL_NEUROPHYS 13,873 50 0.4% 2.0
SLEEP_STUDIES 4,485 164 3.7% 1.8
URODYNAMICS 4,345 176 4.1% 2.2
COLONOSCOPY 30,483 811 2.7% 2.0
FLEXI_SIGMOIDOSCOPY 15,971 326 2.0% 2.0
CYSTOSCOPY 12,930 374 2.9% 2.1
GASTROSCOPY 32,839 613 1.9% 2.0
Total for 15 tests      654,276         4,653 0.7% 1.8

Table 2 - Total diagnostic activity by test - November  2012

  No of diagnostic tests in Nov 2012 Total number of tests in 2012/13 to date Year to date percentage change on previous year
Magnetic Resonance Imaging 211,848       1,602,386 10.2%
Computer Tomography 341,369       2,636,314 11.3%
Non-obstetric ultrasound 525,887       3,991,162 7.1%
Barium Enema 4,989           41,934 -12.1%
DEXA Scan 30,950         229,527 6.1%
Audiology 106,941         814,146 -1.1%
Cardiology – echocardiography 98,558         749,562 6.4%
Cardiology – electrophysiology 2,777           20,957 38.8%
Neurophysiology 15,470         116,950 -0.2%
Respiratory physiology 8,541           63,954 -0.3%
Urodynamics – pressures & flows 8,398           60,049 1.8%
Colonoscopy 37,959         271,328 15.2%
Flexi sigmoidoscopy 21,221         158,786 11.6%
Cystoscopy 25,935         195,762 -5.4%
Gastroscopy 50,556         375,198 7.5%
Total 1,491,399     11,328,015 7.6%

Note: Total activity includes waiting list, planned and unscheduled tests.

Table 3 - Waiting times for 15 key diagnostic tests - March 2006 to November 2012

Test Number waiting six weeks or more at month end</p> Percentage of patients waiting six weeks or more at month end</p> Average (median) waiting time (in weeks)</p>
March 2006 393,123</p> 48.8%</p> 4.9</p>
March 2007 243,191</p> 34.7%</p> 3.9</p>
March 2008 12,904</p> 3.1%</p> 2.1</p>
March 2009 2,870</p> 0.6%</p> 1.7</p>
March 2010 3,824</p> 0.7%</p> 1.7</p>
March 2011 10,795</p> 1.9%</p> 1.8</p>
April 2011 14,247</p> 2.6%</p> 2.3</p>
May 2011 15,919</p> 2.7%</p> 1.9</p>
June 2011 12,516</p> 2.1%</p> 1.8</p>
July 2011 10,734</p> 1.8%</p> 1.8</p>
August 2011 11,443</p> 2.0%</p> 2.0</p>
September 2011 9,589</p> 1.7%</p> 1.8</p>
October 2011 7,629</p> 1.3%</p> 1.8</p>
November 2011 6,498</p> 1.1%</p> 1.8</p>
December 2011 7,981</p> 1.4%</p> 2.3</p>
January 2012 8,973</p> 1.5%</p> 1.7</p>
February 2012 5,562</p> 0.9%</p> 1.8</p>
March 2012 4,323</p> 0.7%</p> 1.8</p>
April 2012 6,240</p> 1.0%</p> 1.7</p>
May 2012 5,535</p> 0.8%</p> 1.8</p>
June 2012 8,301</p> 1.3%</p> 1.8</p>
July 2012 6,115</p> 0.9%</p> 1.9</p>
August 2012 6,542</p> 1.0%</p> 2.0</p>
September  2012 5,089</p> 0.8%</p> 1.8</p>
October 2012 3,905</p> 0.6%</p> 1.9</p>
November 2012 4,653</p> 0.7%</p> 1.8</p>

Graph 1 - Waiting times for 15 key diagnostic tests - April 2008 to November  2012

Statistical Notes

1. Diagnostic waiting times

Diagnostics data is collected from NHS providers (NHS Trusts and other providers) and signed off by commissioners (Primary Care Trusts).

The data measures current waiting times of patient still waiting at the end of the month.  This information is split by number of weeks waiting, and by test.

The waiting times reported are for those patients who have been referred for a test, but whose test had not taken place by the end of the reporting period. 

Data was first published in May 2006, and is available for each month from January 2006 to date.

The six week diagnostic wait was initially introduced as a ‘milestone’ from March 2008 towards achieving the standard Referral to Treatment wait of 18 weeks by December 2008.

The NHS Operating Framework, 2012/2013 has introduced an expectation that less than 1 per cent of patients should wait six weeks or longer for a diagnostic test.  This publication also measures progress against this standard.

2. Provider and Commissioner based data

England figures quoted are commissioner based. Commissioner based returns reflect data for patients for whom English commissioners are responsible.  This is defined as:  

  • all those patients resident within the PCT boundary; plus
  • all patients registered with GPs who are members of the PCT, but are resident in another PCT; minus
  • All patients resident in the PCT, but registered with a GP who is a member of another PCT

Provider based returns cover patients treated in organisations inEngland.

3. Average (median) waiting times

The median is the mid-point of the waiting times distribution (i.e. the 50th percentile) and can be interpreted by saying that 50% of all patients have waited this amount of time.

It should be noted that medians are calculated from aggregate data, rather than patient level data, and therefore are only estimates of the position on average waits. 

4. Interpretation of waiting times and activity data

Care should be taken when making month on month comparisons of these figures.  Measures of waiting time performance are subject to seasonality. For example, the presence of bank holidays, or the number of weekends, in a calendar month affect the number of working days. Similarly, adverse weather may result in emergency pressure and impacts upon the health service’s ability to preserve elective capacity. These factors can affect waiting times and should be considered when making comparisons across time.

5. Feedback welcomed

We welcome feedback on the content and presentation of statistics within this Statistical Press Notice and those published on the DH website. If anyone has any comments on this, or any other issues regarding these statistics, then please email

Additional Information

Full details of diagnostics data for individual organisations is available on the Department of Health website

To contact the Media Centre, please refer to the Department of Health’s website for the relevant contact details

The Government Statistical Service (GSS) statistician responsible for producing these data is:

Mark Svenson
Knowledge and Intelligence
Department of Health
Room 4E63
Quarry House
Quarry Hill


Published 9 January 2013