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The NHS is set to radically overhaul the way MRI, CT and other diagnostic services are delivered for patients, a major report to NHS England recommends today.
Community diagnostic hubs or ‘one stop shops’ should be created across the country, away from hospitals, so that patients can receive life-saving checks close to their homes.
The centres could be set up in free space on the high street or retail parks.
Professor Sir Mike Richards was commissioned by NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens to review diagnostic services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The review’s proposals will help save lives and improve people’s quality of life including for cancer, stroke, heart disease and respiratory conditions.
In his report, presented to the NHS England and NHS Improvement board meeting today, leading medical expert Sir Mike says that these new services would be ‘covid free’, with diagnostic checks in A&E separated from tests taken ahead of routine procedures.
Such an approach would be quicker and safe for patients, so anyone who is in hospital should be able to get a scan on the day.
Access to blood tests in the community should also be expanded so that people can give samples close to their homes, at least six days a week, without having to go to hospital.
Professor Sir Mike, who was the first NHS national cancer director and the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said that the need for radical change has been further amplified by the pandemic.
The report adds that any new services will need to be implemented over time, requiring significant investment in facilities, equipment and workforce alongside replacing outdated testing machines.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
Professor Sir Mike Richards said: “The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the need to overhaul the way our diagnostic services are delivered. While these changes will take time and investment in facilities and more staff, it is the right moment to seize the opportunities to assist recovery and renewal of the NHS.
“Not only will these changes make services more accessible and convenient for patients but they will help improve outcomes for patients with cancer and other serious conditions.”
Alongside improvements in outcomes and convenience for patients, Sir Mike said that there were major efficiency gains to be had, including:
- Reductions in costs of CT and MRI scanners through bulk buying
- Increased use of same day emergency care through improved access to diagnostics in A&E departments
- Shorter hospital stays through tests undertaken on day of request