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17 Dec 2003 : Column 1002W—continued

Waiting Lists/Times

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time is for an MRI scan for a patient in (a) England and (b) North Staffordshire; and if he will make a statement. [144104]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Data are not collected centrally on waiting times for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The length of time that a patient may have to wait for any scan is dependent on their clinical condition. Emergency cases need to be seen immediately. Other cases will be carried out as quickly as possible, dependent on the clinical priority of all patients waiting to be scanned.

Where a MRI scan forms part of the diagnostic process for a patient urgently referred with suspected cancer, this will be covered by the target of a maximum two month wait from urgent referral to first treatment, which is currently in place for breast cancer patients, and will be in place for all cancers by the end of 2005.

To increase capacity of diagnostic services, funding has been made available for the provision of new and replacement scanners. To date, new and replacement equipment provided through central programmes includes, as of 15 December 2003, 51 new MRI scanners, 69 linear accelerators, 148 computed tomography scanners and over 600 items of breast screening equipment, all delivered since April 2000.