Plans are under way to set up new NHS community diagnostic centres to speed up health checks and tests, improving patient experience and outcomes – including cancer and other serious conditions.
The new measures are to be introduced by Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System to speed up testing, reduce waiting times and the risk of cancellation at short notice.
Community diagnostic centres (CDC) will transform how services such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood tests are carried out for local people. The centres will pave the way for an enhanced patient experience that will offer multiple tests at the same time, making it much easier for people to get tested and provide faster results meaning lives can be saved and interventions can happen sooner.
The centres will include services across imaging, including CT, MRI, ultrasound and X-ray; physiological measurement, including ECGs, blood pressure monitoring and lung function tests; and pathology, such as phlebotomy, simple biopsies and urine testing.
This approach will allow hospitals to increase their capacity for emergency and inpatient care, and is the approach proposed, following 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.
Millions of patients across England will benefit from earlier diagnostic tests, backed by a £350m investment from the government to provide around 2.8m scans in the first full year of operation.
Dr James Ramsay, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Diagnostic and Cancer Clinical Lead, said: “New Community diagnostic centres will be a gift to the public. They will ultimately enable patients to access a higher quality of care with a more efficient service. It will provide faster access to life-saving tests, helping to improve patient experience and reduce wait times. This new pathway will offer a one-step approach that is user-friendly and help us to commit to improving patient outcomes and experiences.
“The diagnostic services provided in these hubs are a vital way to spot any problems early and give patients access to the right guidance or treatment as soon as possible. This will be more convenient for patients, more efficient and more resilient to the risk of cancelled tests in hospitals due to COVID-19.
“Cancer outcomes in Luton are poor and we strongly believe that better access to services will help tackle this. From patient feedback, we found that the current diagnosis process is clunky and disconnected, providing a less than satisfactory service at a crucial time. Community diagnostic centres will provide streamlined pathways to diagnosis with everything in one place, rather than one after another in different places, in turn, helping us to create specific patient care plans.
“The benefits are wide-reaching across the community, as our workforce will also gain access to new technology and develop in new roles. We also hope that this will springboard integrated care between primary and secondary care, reducing the burden and increasing support.
“Our population is diverse so we want to create something inclusive that will be beneficial and accessible to everyone. We understand people respond to and access healthcare in many different ways and that’s why decisions over the community diagnostic centres will be based on the patients’ voice, who will ultimately help shape the future of diagnostics in their area.”
Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System is continuing to improve it’s services. The NHS body has already carried out over 4,000 lung screening checks and was responsible for 21 per cent of national screening figures this year
The integration of the Community Diagnostic Centres follows a successful lung screening pilot programme in Luton, where mobile units were set up in supermarkets for people to drop in or be invited by their GP in an effort to increase uptake.
Mr Ramsay added: “Having diagnostic units in areas where people could easily drop into not only meant we were catching people at earlier stages in their illnesses, but we could treat them more effectively. People could access lifesaving checks closer to home and be diagnosed for a range of conditions, which can sometimes be a more comfortable option rather than travelling backwards and forwards to hospital.”
Health experts are now calling on local people to share their views on the new approach to diagnostic testing that will offer multiple tests at the same time. This would make it much easier for people to get tested and provide faster results meaning treatment and interventions can happen sooner and lives can be saved.
For more information on how to take part in the survey, please visit: https://www.blmkccg.nhs.uk/community-diagnostic-centre-survey/