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Over 90 community diagnostic centres (CDCs) are already freeing up hospital capacity by offering MRI, CT and other services closer to patients’ homes, often in the heart of local communities.
Tests and checks carried out at these sites will help staff diagnose a range of conditions including cancer, heart and lung disease quicker to ensure patients get the care they need more quickly.
The NHS is committed to rolling out a network of up to 160 centres across the country, boosting testing capacity so around nine million additional tests and checks can be performed each year by 2025.
New figures come on the same day of the next phase of the NHS campaign to combat the fear of cancer, with TV adverts and social media posts used to tackle people’s cancer worries rather than highlight specific symptoms.
The campaign, which previously ran in March, reached millions of people across the country and resulted in more people visiting the NHS website for support – a 17-fold increase on the previous month.
From this evening, TV adverts will run encouraging people to get checked out to put their mind at rest, or to get treatment that maximises the chances of a good outcome.
Polling as part of the campaign showed that almost one third of patients would delay visiting a GP because of the fear of bad news or because they felt they were wasting NHS time.
Additionally, nearly two-thirds (63%) said dying was their biggest cancer worry but just over a fifth (21%) would delay visiting their GP because they would hope serious health concerns would disappear first.
NHS chiefs have today renewed their plea for people to continue to come forward for care, as NHS staff pull out all the stops to address long waits for care and COVID backlogs that have inevitably built up.
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS said: “It is testament to the hard work of NHS staff that more than one million diagnostic tests and checks have been delivered through one stop shops in the heart of peoples’ communities since the rollout began.
“Not only are they convenient but these centres will be vital in catching more health conditions at an earlier stage and will help people get the treatment and care they need and quickly.
“The most important thing is that people come forward when they have health concerns.
“Our message is loud and clear – people must not worry about coming forward for care and being a burden on the NHS, it is vital that people get checked as soon as they can – the earlier we see you, the sooner we can treat you”.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “As we faced national restrictions to protect the NHS, thousands of people did not come forward for the treatment they needed. Like those who suffered from COVID, these are all people we know: your aunt who needs a new hip, or your friend at work who thinks that they should get that lump or cough checked out.
“We pledged to support the NHS to recover, to be able to provide this much needed care to our constituents and the people we love, and we provided the funding to do so. Reaching one million checks and tests is a pivotal milestone in the biggest catch-up programme in NHS history.
“The Health and Social Care Levy – introduced to deliver biggest catch up programme in NHS history and end spiralling social care costs – means the NHS is well-equipped to continue diagnosing and treating patients quickly so we can tackle the COVID backlogs, reduce waiting lists and save lives”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Tackling the COVID backlog requires innovative ways of working, which is why we have rolled out over 90 community diagnostic centres across the country giving patients access to lifesaving checks, tests and scans closer to home. Since the first one opened in July 2021, they have now delivered one million checks.
“Community diagnostics centres will play a crucial role in our 10-Year Cancer Plan which will focus on speeding up diagnosis – along with innovative treatments and building a world-class workforce.
“It’s also fantastic to see the NHS launch the next phase of their campaign to combat the fear of cancer – I urge anyone with concerns to get checked out – it could save your life”.
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “Community diagnostic centres are enabling patients to access vital checks closer to home – improving early diagnosis and outcomes for people with cancer, stroke, heart disease and respiratory conditions.
“It’s fantastic to see they have now delivered one million checks and this will help ensure the health service can tackle the COVID backlog and establish innovative ways of working for the future, offering patients a range of diagnosis and treatment options”.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “It’s really important that people affected by cancer get a speedy diagnosis, so we’re pleased that these one-stop shops have reached this important milestone of delivering one million tests.
“Community diagnostic centres can make getting checked out easier and more convenient. They can also relieve pressure from primary care and other diagnostic centres, which are under strain due to increased demand.
“If you notice any unusual changes that aren’t going away, do get speak to your GP. Your doctor wants to hear from you and an early diagnosis of cancer can make all the difference”.
Jane Lyons, CEO of Cancer52, which works with charities supporting people with rare and less common cancers, said: “The increasing number of diagnostic tests being undertaken is good news because diagnostic tests are critical to ensure that cancers are diagnosed earlier. Earlier diagnosis for all cancers including the sometimes more difficult to diagnose rare and less common cancers is critical in driving better outcomes.
“So as more people are encouraged by the NHS ‘help us, help you’ advertising campaign to put aside their worries and come forward to see what their symptoms represent it is good to see that the tests that will diagnose them are there to help keep the process going. Many won’t have a cancer, and for those who do, earlier diagnosis often helps with outcomes”.
As set out in the NHS elective recovery plan earlier this year, around £2.3 billion will be used to expand diagnostics and £1.5billion for treatment, with a focus on cancer, to ensure wait times are addressed for everyone. The NHS will increase capacity to deliver over 10 million diagnostic tests over a three-year period.