New ‘one stop shops’ designed to speed-up cancer diagnosis and help save lives are being rolled out across the country.

Rapid diagnostic and assessment centres are being piloted in ten areas as part of NHS England’s drive to catch cancer early and speed up diagnosis for people with cancer.

Each of the centres will operate in a different way to ensure they meet the needs of their local communities. However, all have the same purpose – to diagnose cancers early in people who do not have ‘alarm symptoms’ for a specific type of cancer.

People with vague, non-specific symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, appetite loss or abdominal pain are often referred multiple times for different tests for different cancers, but these new centres will help end this cycle.

If a GP or other healthcare professional suspect cancer, they will now be able to refer to a one stop shop where all the necessary investigations can be done under one roof.

Some patients will receive a definitive diagnosis or all clear on the same day, while others will need to undergo further assessment, but can generally expect a diagnosis within two weeks of their first appointment.

Cally Palmer, National Director for Cancer at NHS England, 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.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “We’re confident that these ten pilot centres will give us a much better understanding of what’s needed to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of people with less obvious symptoms, improve their experience of care and, ultimately, survival. This is a first for this country and Cancer Research UK is delighted to be partnering with NHS England in this innovative initiative. The knowledge gained will support others looking to roll out similar approaches in future.”

Dr Rosie Loftus, joint chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “If cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage it can significantly improve someone’s chances of survival in the long term. This initiative is an important step in improving early diagnosis in England and Macmillan Cancer Support is proud to have partnered with NHS England in its development.”

The ten centres are located at:

  • North Middlesex University Hospital,
  • University College London Hospital,
  • Southend University Hospital,
  • Queens Hospital
  • Royal Free Hospital
  • St James University Hospital
  • Airedale General Hospital
  • University Hospital South Manchester
  • Royal Oldham Hospital
  • Churchill Hospital

These new centres are part of NHS’s plan to meet the new faster diagnosis standard, where patients with suspected cancer should receive a diagnosis or the all clear within 28-days.

Those diagnosed with cancer can be referred on to specialists, while those with benign conditions receive appropriate treatment and tailored advice about prevention.

As part of wider plans to deliver rapid diagnostic and assessment pathways, through access to NHS England transformation funding, local cancer alliances are setting up more multidisciplinary diagnostic centres across the country.

The concept for a multidisciplinary diagnostic centre originated in Denmark, and was developed in response to the issue of patients presenting with vague symptoms being referred for multiple tests, when they required an urgent diagnosis.

Vague symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, appetite loss, abdominal discomfort or pain, fatigue, sweats of unexplained aetiology and general malaise. These symptoms or combinations of symptoms can be indicative of a number of diseases including various cancers.

The pilots make up the Accelerate, Co-ordinate and Evaluate (ACE 2) Early Diagnosis Programme, a joint initiative by NHS England, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan.