Gloucestershire Health and Care Trust saw all its patients within a waiting time target for a range of medical tests in March, figures reveal.

But with hold-ups rising across other parts of the NHS due to suspended services during the Covid-19 crisis, medical experts warn some seriously ill patients potentially missing out on cures.

NHS trusts provide information on how long people have been waiting for 15 key tests at the end of each month.

The procedures are used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cancers, heart failure, sleep disorders and hearing problems.

According to NHS rules, after someone is referred for one of the tests, they should have it completed within six weeks.

NHS England data shows none of the 47 patients waiting at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust by the end of March had been kept longer than that.

It meant the trust was one of a minority to meet the national standard that less than 1% of patients should wait six weeks or more.

The picture was very different across England as a whole, where the number of delays at the end of March shot up to 85,400 – the most for any month since the target was introduced in 2008.

At 10.2% of those waiting, this was also by far the highest proportion delayed over the period.

Dr Jeanette Dickson, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said the coronavirus will have a heavy impact on certain test waits for the foreseeable future.

“While the NHS will aim to prioritise the patients with the most life-threatening conditions, some with serious illnesses have minor symptoms and so may be missed,” she added.

“Although we cannot give definite numbers, it is likely some patients with cancer may have growth of their disease while waiting for a scan, potentially losing their chance of a cure."

John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust health think tank, also said the waits were a sign of things to come.

He said: “Given the NHS had not restarted routine work in April, this number of patients waiting longer for tests will continue to grow.”

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said people were facing longer waits for tests before Covid-19.

She added: “Rising demand, and increased waiting times are patterns seen in other areas of the health service over the last decade, after a sustained period in which the NHS was underfunded relative to the well predicted growth in patient need.”

NHS England recently announced plans for hospitals to increase routine operations and procedures.

But a group of 16 unions has said rapid testing, and ample supply of protective kit are among measures that must be in place for the NHS to be reopened safely.