NHS pushes for faster diagnostic tests for cancer patients

NHS hospitals are being asked to work towards a 10-day turnaround when delivering diagnostic test results to patients who have received an urgent referral for suspected cancer.

In a letter sent to local health areas, teams are also being asked to prioritise diagnostic tests like MRI scans for cancer in community diagnostic centres (CDCs) or to free up capacity for these cancer tests within hospitals by moving elective activity into the centres.

The faster diagnosis standard for suspected cancer for the first time in February, with three quarters of those referred receiving a definitive diagnosis or all clear within 28 days – over 170,000 people (171,453).

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS national director for cancer, said: “It is a testament to the hard work of NHS staff that we are seeing and treating record numbers of patients for cancer, and have made significant progress bringing down the backlog and achieving the target for diagnosing three quarters of people within 28 days – all despite huge demand and pressures on the system.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of suspected cancer patients waiting for a diagnostic test will not have cancer, but for those waiting it can be a very anxious time, so we are asking trusts to aim for a ten day turnaround time between GP referral and tests results for patients – so we can get people the all-clear faster, or in some cases ensure patients diagnosed with cancer are able to start treatment sooner.

“Lives are saved when cancers are caught early and while we’re already diagnosing a higher proportion of cancers at an earlier stage than ever before – we want to ensure we’re making the absolute most of the diagnostic capacity in our community centres and hospitals.”

Minister Helen Whately said: “Catching cancer early saves lives which is why we’re prioritising early diagnosis and supporting the latest NHS drive to speed up the return of test results.

“We have also opened 100 community diagnostic centres and these one-stop-shops have delivered over 3.6 million additional tests, checks and scans. We remain focused on fighting cancer through prevention, diagnosis and treatment backed up by vital funding and research.

“We know there is more to do and our ambition is to diagnose 75% of cancers at an early stage by 2028 which will help save tens of thousands of lives for longer.”


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