LONGER-than-target waits for diagnostic tests for Gwent patients fell in June, following two months of sharp increases.

By June 30, 3,392 patients had been waiting longer than the target eight weeks for a diagnostic test, a reduction of almost 200 on the May figure.

But this remained more than a third (36 per cent) higher than the end-of-March figure for target breaches.

More than 80 per cent of test waits of more than eight weeks for Gwent patients were for endoscopies.

This has long been the service with the majority of long waits, due to capacity and equipment problems, and the latter continued in the spring.

From May, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has been sending some diagnostic endoscopy patients to an NHS treatment centre in Bristol, where it has arranged extra capacity to deal with its waiting list backlog.

But progress in reducing numbers has been compromised due to problems with washer water testing at Nevill Hall Hospital and Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, which resulted in around 400 test slots being lost during April and May.

Despite this setback, the service still aims to eliminate waits of more than eight weeks by the end of next March.

The number of eight-week target breaches more than doubled in nuclear medicine during April and May, due to a shortage of radio-pharmaceuticals and issues with specialist cover.

But the situation improved slightly in June, and extra clinics last month and this is predicted to have reduced the backlog.