Posted on 11 August 2023

​Patients across the country are soon to benefit from earlier diagnostic tests closer to home because of a brand-new government diagnostic drive which will see 40 new community diagnostic centres opening across England in everywhere from local shopping centres to football stadiums. This new £350 million investment from the government for one-stop-shops for checks, scans and tests will provide around 2.8 million scans in the first full year of operation.

GPs will now be able to refer patients to a one of these centres so they can access life-saving checks closer to home and be diagnosed outside of a hospital setting. This will be more convenient for patients but also create efficiency and resiliency to the risk of cancelled tests in hospitals due to COVID-19 and industrial action. The centres will be staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff including nurses and radiographers and are open 7 days a week.

As we previously reported, even things like bed blocking and late discharge in hospital can cause delays across the system when patients need diagnostics to be discharged. Delayed discharge has increased rapidly over the last decade, with numbers of 114,000 a month in 2012 to more than 200,000 in October 2016 seemingly going in one direction. With the news last year where we reported that A&E departments have ambulances queuing into the waiting rooms and patients being treated for more than half a day in an ambulance, today is as good a time as any to delve into the nuance of the wider context.

These new routes to diagnostics and services will provide;

  • diagnoses of diseases earlier in the process by patients experiencing easier, faster, and more direct access to the specialist diagnostic tests to investigate breathlessness, cancer and ophthalmology problems

  • reducing hospital visits which will help to reduce the risk of communicable disease transmission like COVID-19, RSV, cold and Flu.

  • reducing wait times by diverting patients away from hospitals, allowing them to focus on acute patients, while the community diagnostic centres focus on tackling the backlog

  • ·Contribute to the NHS’s net zero ambitions by consolidating multiple tests at one visit, reducing the number of patient journeys and helping to cut carbon emissions and air pollution

Giving more power for hospitals to fulfil their role of focusing on acute patients, we reported in the worst-case scenario, some category 3 ambulance emergencies waited up to 22 hours to get in to accident and emergency, such is the volume of pressures. Commenting on the reports of these waits, Dr Henderson said, “It’s not acceptable -It’s a very, very significant loss of (sic) the agreement with the public about the NHS, which is that if you dial 999 and you need an ambulance (sic) you’ll get one in a timely way”. The diagnostic centres will give a release of pressure to hospitals and provide real opportunities to face on the most ill patients.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, explained,” 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”. 

There’s a range of centres already penned for the scheme; 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. Also, Falmer Community Stadium, is 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. Down in Dorset, a repurposed retail outlet 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.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said “Rapid diagnosis will save lives and this 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”.

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