NHS England is rolling out a stream of ‘one-stop shops’ across the country in the hope of speeding up diagnosis of cancer.
Rapid diagnostic and assessment centres are being piloted in ten areas* under a drive to detect cancer at an earlier and more treatable stage in order to improve outcomes.
While the centres will be tailored to meet the needs of their own local communities, each has the same purpose of diagnosing the disease early in those who are not experiencing symptoms linked to a specific type of cancer.
“People with vague, non-specific symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, appetite loss or abdominal pain are often referred multiple times for different tests for different cancers, but these new centres will help end this cycle,” NHS England said.
Healthcare professionals suspecting cancer will now be able to refer patients to a ‘one stop shop’ where all the necessary investigations can be done in one place. This will allow some patients to receive a definitive diagnosis or all clear on the same day, while those needing further assessment will likely obtain a diagnosis within two weeks of their first appointment.
“We’re confident that these ten pilot centres will give us a much better understanding of what’s needed to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of people with less obvious symptoms, improve their experience of care and, ultimately, survival,” said Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, commenting on the move.
“This is a first for this country and Cancer Research UK is delighted to be partnering with NHS England in this innovative initiative. The knowledge gained will support others looking to roll out similar approaches in future.”
“If cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage it can significantly improve someone’s chances of survival in the long term. This initiative is an important step in improving early diagnosis in England and Macmillan Cancer Support is proud to have partnered with NHS England in its development,” added Dr Rosie Loftus, joint chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support.
Earlier this year, Public Health England published data indicating that the picture of cancer diagnosis is starting to improve in the UK.
According to its Routes to Diagnosis data, the number of cases of cancer diagnosed in an emergency, which are linked with the worst outcomes, has fallen four percentage points in a decade, from 24 percent in 2006 to 20 percent in 2015.
Also, diagnoses via the urgent GP referrals channel has seen a significant rise, from 25 percent to 37 percent, but the total number detected via screening programmes was just over five percent, increasing from just under 5 percent back in 2006.
In July last year, the Swedish Institute for Health Economics published a report showing that the UK is lagging behind Europe in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Cancer patients in England were found to have worse survival rates after five years compared to the European average in nine out of ten cancers - only overshooting the EU average in melanoma, it said, highlighting the need to improve diagnosis and access to medicines.
* North Middlesex University Hospital, University College London Hospital, Southend University Hospital, Queens Hospital, Royal Free Hospital, St James University Hospital, Airedale General Hospital, University Hospital South Manchester, Royal Oldham Hospital and Churchill Hospital.