Evaluation of the Rapid Diagnostic Centres

Purposes for processing

The rollout of Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) across England is designed to speed up diagnosis of cancer and other serious conditions.

RDC pathways make sure everyone with suspected cancer gets the right tests at the right time in as few visits as possible. Driving innovation and new diagnostic practice, RDC pathways promote continuous improvement of cancer diagnostics.

The service provides:

  • Coordinated access to a diagnostic pathway for all patients with symptoms that could indicate cancer.
  • A personalised, accurate and rapid diagnosis of symptoms by bringing existing diagnostic capabilities and clinical expertise together.

RDCs also introduce a new non-specific symptom pathway for patients who display symptoms that could indicate cancer that don’t align to specific cancers, such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue or vague abdominal pain. The new non-specific pathway complements current cancer diagnostic pathways, as well as providing elements that can be applied to existing pathways.

By 2024 the programme will achieve full population coverage across England for non-specific symptom pathways and be applying the RDC pathway principles to every site-specific symptom pathway

NHS England and NHS Improvement has commissioned independent partners Ipsos MORI and York Health Economic Consortium (YHEC) as processors, in collaboration with the Strategy Unit at Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (CSU – part of NHS England) to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the RDC programme. The evaluation will provide ongoing feedback to inform the delivery of RDC pathways and the strategic direction of the programme.

The evaluation will use mixed quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the processes, impact, and economics of RDC pathways to understand:

  • Patient experience and impacts on the health and care system;
  • The best approach to delivering national pathways for specified cohorts of patients;
  • What pathway changes are optimal, in what context(s);
  • How patients move through RDC pathways and the outcomes they experience as a result by analysing the impact of RDC pathways on metrics such as waiting times and cancer staging; and
  • The cohorts of patients being referred into RDC pathways and the sequences of tests performed to enable continuous improvement of the services.

The initial evaluation will include:

  • A sampled experience of care survey
  • Qualitative interviews with patients and RDC programme staff
  • Case studies of selected RDC pathways
  • An economic survey and evaluation
  • An impact evaluation using a collation of patient level data through a newly developed Trusted Research Environment for Cancer hosted by NHS Digital.

Sources of data and categories of personal data

Patient Level Personal Data is obtained from the datasets held in the National Disease Registration Service – see National Disease Registration Service: NHS Digital Transparency Notice – NHS Digital for further information

Patient Level Personal Data is obtained from NHS Digital held commissioning datasets for Cancer Waiting Times (CWT), National Cancer Registration data and the Rapid Cancer Registration data, Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES), and Civil Registration dataset.

Patient Level Personal Data is submitted by RDC’s to the National Cancer Registry and Analysis Service (NCRAS).  The minimum dataset includes

  • Cancer Alliance Code
  • Provider Code
  • NHS Number
  • Date of birth
  • Health information
  • Diagnosis information
  • Testing information

Data is obtained directly from Patients and Staff who agree to provide responses to care surveys and qualitative interviews.

Categories of recipients

Ipsos Mori, the Strategy Unit at the Midlands and Lancashire CSU and the York Health Economic Consortium, will process a linked dataset of pseudonymised personal data provided by NHS Digital under a Data Sharing Agreement with NHS England that will enable the evaluation processors to analyse data within a trusted research environment.

Ipsos Mori also collects information through surveys and interviews, which will be anonymised before sharing with NHS England. All of the outputs from the evaluation will be provided in an anonymised form to share with NHS England and the Cancer Alliances.

Legal basis for processing

NHS England’s lawful basis for processing the data is Article 6(1)(e) – ‘…exercise of official authority…’

For the processing of special categories (health) data the basis is 9(2)(h) – ‘…health or social care…’.

For the processing of the Patient care and staff surveys and interviews, explicit consent will be relied upon in order to obtain the required information.