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Report reveals importance of diagnostic services to patients while exposing barriers

By February 21, 2024No Comments

A report from the Patients Association has shown that diagnostic services are a key priority for patients, with 93% calling for greater investment to deliver faster testing and diagnoses in future.

The report, which draws on the responses of over a thousand UK patients, discovered that 60% of patients would consider paying for testing if faced with a lengthy wait on the NHS. This encapsulates the frustration felt by many patients across the UK whose anxieties are maximised by long waiting times due to the diagnostic backlog.

Investment in diagnostic services would not only be immensely popular with patients, but would also save lives through earlier diagnosis, as well as NHS funds by beginning treatments, if necessary, at an earlier stage.

Quicker access to testing would also help to alleviate patient fears during their healthcare journey, as more than a third (34%) reported physical or mental health declines while waiting for tests.

77% of patients were eager to test from home, perhaps demonstrating the legacy of the pandemic which has been hitherto unexploited in the main.

Three-quarters (73%) of respondents wanted better understanding of why they are being sent for a test and what it will involve, while more than four in five (82%) want more discussion about the different types of tests they could be referred for.

This demonstrates patients’ interest in diagnostic testing and their willingness to be educated throughout the process. Changing behaviours, particularly placing test results and antibiotic prescriptions on an equal footing, will go a long way to mitigating the harmful effects of AMR.

The report’s key findings are:

  • More than nine out of ten (93%) respondents want testing capacity to be invested in over the coming years so that patients can receive tests and diagnosis more quickly.
  • More than nine out ten (91%) want investment in diagnostics and new technology to be prioritised.
  • Three out of five (60%) would consider paying privately if they faced long waits on the NHS.
  • More than 3 in 4 (77%) would be happy to test themselves at home.
  • Four out of five (82%) want more discussion of testing options when being referred.
  • Around nine out of ten (88%) want a realistic timeline for receiving results.
  • A third (36%) reported their physical health declined while waiting for tests.
  • A third (34%) said their mental health declined while waiting for tests.


The report’s key recommendations are:

  • Expand community diagnostic hubs by removing NHS estate restrictions and expanding tests offered. With demand rising by 7% annually, the current 5% capacity target for new hubs is inadequate.
  • Increase transparency on waiting times through better use of data held by the NHS. Patients deserve to know how long they’ll wait for tests and results.
  • Support appropriate expansion of at-home testing options where considered clinically safe and effective. Our results show clear appetite from patients for this.
  • Improve communication with patients throughout the testing process. This includes explaining the reason for tests, available options, timelines for results, and what results mean.
  • Ensure political commitments to improve diagnostics access from all parties in upcoming election manifestos.
  • Review NHS Constitution pledges on waiting times based on patient experiences.
Ben Kemp