Health chiefs are under attack for making a man with a bladder tumour wait nearly five months for crucial tests that will show whether the growth is cancerous or not.

Ted Bissmire, 66, from Chingford, was referred to a specialist this summer by his doctor. He saw the consultant at the North Middlesex hospital in Edmonton during the first week of June and was told he needed a biopsy.

Although he was told it would be 'soon' he heard nothing for a month. His GP wrote to the hospital and was told her patient would be admitted within a month, but it was only in August, after his MP and the local community health council had become involved, that Mr Bissmire received an appointment - for the end of October, five months after he first saw a specialist.

'It has been absolutely dreadful,' said his wife, Maureen. 'Ted is completely down and in pain. The uncertainty is the worst part.'

After further remonstrations from his community health council and intervention by the health authority, the appointment was moved forward a month, and Mr Bissmire went into hospital yesterday.

Waltham Forest Community Health Council, which monitors health provision, is angry at the delay. According to Karen Edmunds, chairwoman of the council, the local Redbridge and Waltham Forest Health Authority had given assurances that urgent cases such as Mr Bissmire's, involving tests to find out whether a patient has cancer, would be handled within three months.

But, she said, the decision to admit was determined by the clinicians. 'If they are already in a situation where they have carried out a certain number of operations they may not be able to see patients as quickly as they may like.'

A health authority spokeswoman said it was up to the hospital doctors to decide how urgent a case was. 'We do not get involved in admission dates on a day-to-day basis but we monitor all the hospitals . . . to make sure the dates they offer are acceptable.'

The authority has a long-standing deficit, currently at pounds 4.8m. It is trying to balance its books by April 1996 and has to limit the number of operations to meet that target.