Report by Imperial College London reveals need to expand community diagnostics

A report released by researchers from Imperial College, London, working independently via Imperial Consultants, with Philips UK and Ireland, shows that community diagnostic centres (CDC) need to be prioritised in locations of greatest socio-economic deprivation and with the highest waiting times, to help tackle the NHS backlog and bring diagnostic services closer to underserved communities.

As the UK Government plans to create 160 CDCs and deliver an additional nine million checks, scans and operations by 2025, the report investigates the role CDCs can play in addressing the major diagnostic challenges facing the NHS and proposes locations for future CDCs to expand access to care for those who need it most.

The researchers say the data highlights why a successful CDC roll out is important for addressing challenges in the provision of timely diagnostic, cancer and planned services, which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report shows that the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests has increased to more than 1.4 million. The proportion of those waiting more than six weeks for an MR or CT scan rose from 2.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent in November 2019 to 22.8 per cent and 19.4 per cent in November 2021 respectively.

Study co-author Dr Jonathan Clarke said: “The pandemic has muddied an already challenging picture facing the NHS. CDCs can play an important role in getting the NHS back to pre-pandemic levels of care and beyond, but their roll out must be consistent with their design. CDCs must be established in communities, not in overburdened hospitals and, critically, be staffed by a highly trained workforce and have the appropriate equipment. At present, there is not enough capacity in the system and correcting this must be a key focus in the months and years to come.”

Philips UK&I managing director Mark Leftwich added: “The introduction of community diagnostics offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we can work with the NHS to build a resilient healthcare system fit for the future, including how and where the NHS delivers timely care to patients. CDCs hold the potential to relieve persistent pressure on acute hospitals and empower GPs and primary care providers to ensure patients can get a swift diagnosis and begin their treatment journeys sooner.”

Picture: Community diagnostic centres can bring services to underserved populations.

Published on page 3 of the July 2022 issue of RAD Magazine.

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