40 community diagnostic centers to launch in England

40 community diagnostic centers to launch in England

Millions of patients will benefit from earlier diagnostic tests thanks to 40 new community diagnostic centres set to open across England.

Millions of patients will benefit from earlier diagnostic tests closer to home thanks to 40 new community diagnostic centres set to open across England in a range of settings from local shopping centres to football stadiums.

The new one-stop-shops for checks, scans and tests will be backed by a £350 million investment from government to provide around 2.8 million scans in the first full year of operation.

The centres will help to achieve:

  • earlier diagnoses for patients through easier, faster, and more direct access to the full range of diagnostic tests needed to understand patients’ symptoms including breathlessness, cancer, ophthalmology
  • a reduction in hospital visits which will help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission
  • a reduction in waits by diverting patients away from hospitals, allowing them to treat urgent patients, while the community diagnostic centres focus on tackling the backlog
  • a contribution to the NHS’s net zero ambitions by providing multiple tests at one visit, reducing the number of patient journeys and helping to cut carbon emissions and air pollution

GPs will be able to refer patients to a centre so they can access life-saving checks closer to home and be diagnosed for a range of conditions, rather than travelling to hospital. This will be more convenient for patients, more efficient and more resilient to the risk of cancelled tests in hospitals due to COVID-19. The centres will be staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff including nurses and radiographers and are open 7 days a week.

All cancer services are back to or above pre-pandemic levels with almost half a million people checked for cancer in June and July – among the highest numbers on record – while more than 50,000 people started treatment for cancer in the same period, a 32% increase on the same period last year. The centres will continue to further level up access to vital cancer tests and other tests to tackle the backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.

The new centres are being rolled out in a host of accessible settings, including:

  • the Glass Works in Barnsley – the new centre will be part of the town centre redevelopment with access to 670 parking spaces and will deliver ultrasound, X-ray, breast screening, phlebotomy and bone density scans
  • Falmer Community Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club – this will be one of 4 centres across the region serving a population of 1.7 million. The centres will provide additional MRI, CT, ultrasound and X-ray services
  • a Community Diagnostic Village in a repurposed retail outlet in Poole – it will bring together primary, community and secondary care as well as local health support teams to serve the population of Dorset, particularly those in areas of known deprivation

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said:

Tackling waiting lists will require new and more innovative ways of delivering the services people need. That is why we’re making it easier and more convenient to get checked.

Our new community diagnostic centres will bring those crucial tests closer to home including in the communities that need them most. They will help enable earlier diagnosis, allowing us to catch cancer and other issues as quickly as possible, and save more lives.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said:

Rapid diagnosis will save lives and these one stop shops for checks, scans and tests in the heart of local communities will not only make services more accessible and convenient for patients but they will also help us to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and other serious conditions, ultimately sparing more patients and families the pain and trauma of disease.

NHS staff have continued to provide routine care, throughout the pandemic, alongside treating around 450,000 seriously ill COVID patients in hospital, and the roll-out of these community diagnostic centres will help us to spot problems sooner, when they are easier to treat.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS national cancer director who recommended the changes, said:

The pandemic brought into sharper focus the need to overhaul the way we deliver diagnostic services and so I am absolutely delighted to see one of the key recommendations of my report becoming a reality for patients so quickly. I have no doubt that many people will benefit from these new NHS community diagnostic centres, bringing together many tests in one convenient place.

The centres will begin providing services over the next 6 months, with some already up and running, and will be fully operational by March 2022.

The centres are one of the recommendations from Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS national cancer director, who conducted a review of diagnostic services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published last year.

The government recently announced an extra £5.4 billion to the NHS to respond to COVID-19 over the next 6 months, taking total extra COVID-19 funding to health and care services to over £34 billion this year alone. It builds on the new Health and Social Care Levy, which will see funding rise by a record £36 billion over the next 3 years.

This is on top of a further £36 billion for health and social care across the UK thanks to the Health and Care Levy, which will include £8 billion ring-fenced to tackle backlogs and help the NHS deliver an extra 9 million checks, scans and operations for patients across the country from 2022 onwards.

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