A study commissioned by the Patients Association found that 90% of the British public feel that access to diagnostic testing is not straightforward enough to be useful while more than 60% have called for at-home testing to speed up diagnosis.

Undertaken in partnership with Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland, the study surveyed more than 1,000 patients from across the UK, who had received diagnostic support from the NHS in the last six months. In addition, a further 60% of respondents said that they are willing to pay for diagnostic testing if the NHS is unable to obtain the appropriate test.

Additionally, 33% of respondents complained that even after they were told they could book an appointment for a test, no appointments would be available locally, significantly exacerbating the difficulty for some patients.

It comes as the NHS is facing crushing backlogs, waiting lists and delays in surgeries and appointments. This year has already kicked off with multiple staff strikes and protests as the body unwinds from its yearly winter surge in cases.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the UK advocacy group the Patient Association, said: “Patients value diagnostic services – that’s very clear from the survey. Frustrations about access to tests came over loud and clear.

“Patients need and want clear communication on how to get tests, why they need a test, and when they’ll get results. Healthcare professionals can improve patient-centered care when ordering diagnostic tests by explaining how, why, and when.”

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A report published by GlobalData details how the overall market for telehealth apps stood at around $2bn in 2020, but the figure is estimated to rise to $5bn this year, with further growth projected into 2030 where it’s estimated to hit $12bn.

The survey additionally found that many patients had a clear preference as to how the issue should be remedied with a shift towards at-home testing with respondents citing the at-home testing methods employed by the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic as a much more convenient method of testing. More than three-quarters (77%) said they would be happy to test themselves at home.

Additionally, more than half (57%) of the respondents felt the use of new technology such as artificial intelligence could expedite diagnosis and reduce pressures on the NHS. At the same time, 29% of respondents admitted that they had intentionally delayed testing so as not to avoid wasting NHS time and resources.

Geoff Twist, managing director of Roche Diagnostics, said: “Tests that detect or diagnose disease early, or in some cases prevent it altogether, can play a vital role in the patient journey, and in helping the health system work efficiently. This report shows that patients themselves see and understand the importance of diagnostic tests and that they will proactively seek them out to find the answers they need about their health.

“The message is clear. But to realise this we need a renewed policy focus, setting out how we can speed up getting existing diagnostic tests and innovations to the people who need them. Prioritising diagnostic services can help to relieve some of the pressure on our NHS today and protect it for generations to come.”