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NHS England to launch Rapid Diagnostic Centres to improve cancer diagnosis

Learn about the planned rollout of Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) by NHS England and what it means for myeloma diagnosis.

Other News // 29th November 2019

From January 2020, patients with non-specific but concerning symptoms will start to be referred from GPs into Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) in England. RDCs are designed to speed up cancer diagnosis and support NHS England’s ambitions to achieve earlier diagnosis with improved patient experience for all patients with cancer symptoms or suspicious results.

The RDC model, which brings together modernised kit, expertise and cutting-edge innovation, builds on the ten Multidisciplinary Diagnostic Centres (MDCs) which were piloted in Cancer Alliances last year. The MDCs sought to enable people with non-specific but concerning symptoms to receive a range of diagnostic tests, with the intention of ruling-out cancer more quickly. An evaluation of the MDC pilots published this year showed that they are effective in diagnosing cancer including a range of blood cancer types: 13% of the 239 cancer cases diagnosed were blood cancer and including patients with myeloma.

The roll-out of RDCs is a key measure in NHS England’s Long Term Plan, published early this year, to achieve its ambition to deliver faster and earlier diagnosis of cancers and improved patient experience.

The Long Term Plan specifies that the RDCs will, “in time, play a role in the diagnosis of all patients with cancer, including self-referral for people with red-flag symptoms.” It is hoped that by April 2020 every Cancer Alliance in England will have set up an RDC.

The ambitious five-year vision is for each RDC to offer:

  • A single point of access for all patients with suspected cancer
  • A personalised, accurate and fast diagnosis service with excellent patient experience

The seven key components of an RDC are:

  • Early identification
  • Timely referral
  • Symptom assessment
  • Coordinated testing
  • Timely diagnosis
  • Onward referral
  • Patients will receive excellent coordination and support throughout the process

The introduction of RDCs represents a significant transformation of current diagnostic practices which, once developed and embedded, hold great potential in delivering faster and earlier diagnosis, leading to higher cancer survival rates.

The use of diagnosis centres to improve cancer diagnosis are also being explored in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A full evaluation of this model and potential rollout plans in these areas are yet to be published. We support the planning and rollout of diagnostic centres throughout the UK as they aim to bring a faster diagnosis in patients with vague, non-specific symptoms.

Amy Capper, Patient Advocacy and Policy Research Officer said:

“It is encouraging to see NHS England’s plans to improve cancer diagnosis start to take shape and we are hopeful that RDCs will reduce the diagnostic delay for myeloma patients. However, their success will rely on both RDC referral guidelines that will enable people with non-specific symptoms to benefit, as well as prompt access to diagnostic tests following referral. We plan to review and report on the RDC model over the next year to ensure that it is delivering for myeloma patients and making a positive impact in myeloma diagnosis.”