A BBC investigation has shown that a growing number of patients are facing long waits for crucial NHS tests.
Figures obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act suggest a lack of radiographers is a key cause. Data provided by hospitals show one in 11 posts are unfilled.
The society of Radiographers said the shortages were causing serious delays in diagnosing illnesses. Some patients are not only waiting weeks but months for crucial biopsies and scans carried out by radiographers.
More than one million patients are currently waiting for MRI, CT scans as well as ultrasounds and endoscopies across the UK.
England and Wales has a referral waiting time of six weeks. In England it has risen by 9,000 to 29,000 in the past year and one in seven are waiting more than three months.
Figures for Scotland and Ireland are worse. In Scotland the number of patients waiting more than six weeks has risen to more than 18,500.
In Northern Ireland, the target is nine weeks but these numbers have risen by nearly a fifth in the last year alone to more than 56,000 of which 22,000 waited more than six months.
Wales is the only country in the UK to have improved.
Richard Evans, head of society of Radiographers said: “If we are going to identify things like cancer early we need more diagnostics.
“We are struggling to cope with demand and that creates delays for patients.
“It is not just about staffing either. We have ageing machines that are not as efficient as they should be.”
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