In a major report, the NHS proposing to radically overhaul diagnostic services for patients, including MRI, CT and blood tests. The NHS is to set up diagnostic hubs, or ‘one stop shops’ across the country and away from hospitals. This will enable patients to be diagnosed closer to home.
These community centres could be set up in free space on the high street or retail parks. The review of diagnostic services is part of the NHS Long Term Plan to help save lives and improve quality of life for people with cancer, stroke, heart disease and respiratory conditions.
These new services would be COVID free – patients will be tested in A&E before going on to have their diagnostic tests elsewhere. It is anticipated that this approach would be quicker and safe for patients, and anyone in hospital should be able to get a scan on the same day.
A similar system is being set-up for blood tests in the community so that people can give samples close to their homes, at least six days a week, without having to go to hospital. These changes have been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will need significant investment in facilities, equipment and workforce, while replacing outdated testing machines.
- Tests for emergency and elective diagnostics should be separate, to reduce hold-ups for patients
- CT scanning capacity should be doubled over the next five years to meet increasing demand and to match other developed countries
- Tests for heart and lung diseases need to be enhanced given the link to coronavirus
- More staff need to be trained to undertake screening colonoscopies
- The imaging workforce needs to be expanded as soon as possible with 2,000 additional radiologists and 4,000 radiographers as well as other support staff.