GPs in parts of England will be able to refer patients with non-specific symptoms for quicker cancer investigation.
NHS England has announced 10 new ‘one-stop shop’ cancer diagnosis centres that will guarantee a diagnosis within two weeks of the patient’s first appointment.
The pilot sites, the total funding for which NHS England had yet to specify, will be based in hospitals across London, and the South, East and North of England.
Launched in cooperation with cancer charities Cancer Research UK and Macmillan, the scheme will be rolled out elsewhere in the country if successful.
National director for cancer Cally Palmer said: ‘Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country.
‘These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated.’
NHS England said symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, appetite loss or abdominal pain currently cause patients to be ‘referred multiple times for different tests for different cancers’, although it hopes that this new scheme could ‘end this cycle’.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Traditionally, GPs have to refer patients who they suspect of having cancer to a particular hospital department, which works only if the symptoms point to a particular cancer type.
‘However, several cancers start with very vague, non-specific symptoms and these “one stop” clinics will help diagnose such cases earlier, hopefully improving outcomes, and freeing up valuable appointments with hard-stretched GPs.’
The pilot follows years of discussions and proposed changes around cancer diagnosis.
In March last year, NHS England confirmed that it would be introducing a four-week cancer waiting standard from April 2018.
The 10 ‘one-stop shop’ cancer diagnosis pilot locations
North Middlesex University Hospital
University College London Hospital
Royal Free Hospital
Southend University Hospital, Queens Hospital
Airedale General Hospital
University Hospital South Manchester
Royal Oldham Hospital
St James University Hospital
Source: NHS England