GPs will be able to refer patients for tests at 40 new community diagnostic hubs opening across the country next year.
The ‘one-stop-shop’ diagnostic hubs will offer a range of life-saving checks, scans and diagnostic tests, including ultrasound, MRI, CT, breast screening, phlebotomy and X-ray services, the Government said.
The new centres, due to be set up by March 2022, will be open seven days a week and aim to provide around 2.8m scans in the first year.
The £350m plan, which has been piloted in 10 areas since 2018, is being funded from NHS England’s existing budget.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘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.’
He added: ‘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.’
It follows a report published last year commissioned by NHS England under the long-term plan and written by Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS national cancer director.
The document recommended the community diagnostic centres to relieve pressure on hospitals.
Professor Richards was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week if referrals would have to go through a GP or if the new centres were potentially a way of ‘cutting the GP out’.
He responded that ‘to begin with it will be via the GP’, while ‘over time we may want to do things differently and we can’.
But RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee last month that he does not think the NHS has the capacity for patients to self-refer for cancer diagnosis.