New multi-disciplinary centres designed to speed up cancer diagnosis are to be trialled in 10 areas in England, it was announced today.
The rapid diagnostic and assessment centres are being piloted as part of efforts to boost early diagnosis under a joint initiative by NHS England and cancer charities Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.
“These new one stop shops represent a real step change”
While each of the centres will operate in a different way, their key goal will be to aid speedy diagnosis in people who do not have clear symptoms pointing to a specific type of cancer.
Currently 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.
It is hoped the concept, which originated in Denmark, will end this cycle by enabling GPs, nurses adn others to refer patients with suspected cancer to a “one stop shop” where all the necessary investigations can be done under one roof.
NHS England said some patients seen at the new centres could receive a definitive diagnosis or get the all clear on the same day.
Others will need to undergo further assessment but can generally expect a diagnosis within two weeks of their first appointment.
Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said the new centres were an exciting development.
“Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country,” she said.
“These new one stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated,” she added.
Regional variations in cancer diagnosis highlighted
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, described the initiative as a “first for this country” and said lessons learned from the initiative would help others develop similar approaches that could help save lives.
“We’re confident that these 10 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,” she said.
Dr Rosie Loftus, joint chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the scheme was “an important step in improving early diagnosis in England”.
The 10 centres are to be located at:
- North Middlesex University Hospital, London
- University College Hospital, London
- Royal Free Hospital, London
- Southend University Hospital
- Queen’s Hospital, Romford
- St James’s University Hospital, Leeds
- Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire
- Wythenshawe Hospital, South Manchester
- Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester
- Churchill Hospital, Oxford
The centres are part of NHS plans to meet a new faster diagnosis standard, where patients with suspected cancer should receive a diagnosis or the all clear within 28-days.
Those diagnosed with cancer can be referred on to specialists, while those with benign conditions will receive appropriate treatment and tailored advice about prevention.
Anna Jewell, director of operations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Action to vastly improve the number of people diagnosed earlier with cancers like pancreatic cancer, which are hard to detect, is urgently needed.
“These centres are great news as a significant first step towards speeding up diagnosis,” she said. ”Currently less than 7% of people with pancreatic cancer will live for five years or more, due in large part to the fact that 80% of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the one potentially life-saving treatment of surgery is not an option.
“People with pancreatic cancer will often have vague symptoms including unexplained weight loss and tummy pain, and as a result all too often they have to go through tests for other diseases or other forms of cancer before tests for pancreatic cancer,” she noted.
She added: “We hope that these centres will enable more people with pancreatic cancer to be diagnosed early enough to be eligible for potentially life-saving surgery, or for other treatments which could allow them to live for longer. If successful, these centres must be rolled out across the UK.”