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Scotland’s first Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres go live

Patients will benefit from Scotland’s first Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres to quickly diagnose or rule out cancer in those who do not meet existing Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer. 

Developed within existing NHS infrastructure, the Centres in Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway and Fife will play a key role in delivering earlier diagnosis and improved care, with fast-track diagnostic testing at one appointment, where possible. 

The new Centres, which are being delivered through the national Centre for Sustainable Delivery at NHS Golden Jubilee, will provide primary care with an alternative route to urgently refer patients who have non-specific but concerning symptoms – such as weight loss, fatigue, pain and nausea – or where the GP’s instinct is cancer. 

Currently, around 40% of cancer patients are not diagnosed through an urgent suspicion of cancer pathway in Scotland. 

Patients presenting with non-specific symptoms can be more difficult to diagnose as some symptoms, or combinations of symptoms, can have a range of potential causes, not all of which are cancer. 

The difficulty in correctly identifying the required referral pathway can increase the time taken to diagnose and treat these patients resulting in poorer outcomes and poorer patient experience. 

While the Early Cancer Diagnostic Centre model – that will see a small number of complex patients moving through it at any given time - varies between the three Boards to help inform optimal roll-out across NHS Scotland - they will all follow the same principles. 

As well as an examination and suite of tests performed in primary care at the point of referral, patients will largely be sent for a CT scan in the first instance with all results discussed by a team of specialists at the hospital.  

All patients will be assigned a ‘navigator’ to support them throughout their experience and to answer any questions or concerns they, or their families, have at any time. 

At the end of the new pathway, patients will be referred onward to the most appropriate specialist team, to a site-specific cancer pathway, or discharged back to their GP practice. 

Establishing this person-centred service will help reduce the number of hospital visits that would otherwise be required for this patient group and prevent repeat diagnostic testing, helping improve patient experience and outcomes. 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: 

“The establishment of our first Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres within the first 100 days of this new term marks a radical change to the patient experience of being tested for a suspicion of cancer and will improve the detection of cancers at an earlier stage. 
“This person-centred service will mean better care for patients, reducing the number of hospital visits they might otherwise need, preventing them having to repeat diagnostic testing and improving outcomes. 
“While the centres will have a wider health benefit in identifying other, serious health conditions, the focus remains on finding cancer as early as possible when it’s easier to treat. The centres reinforce our commitment to improving the experience and outcomes of cancer patients in Scotland and build on the progress of our £43 million Detect Cancer Early Programme.” 

Lorraine Sloan, Strategic Partnership Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: 

“We welcome the introduction of the Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres. Getting referred for tests to check for cancer can be a worrying time. These centres should help people navigate their way through and get support quickly too. 
“For those who do get diagnosed with cancer we know this can affect people physically, emotionally and financially, so early support is vital to ensuring people’s wider needs are met. 
“Anyone concerned about cancer or who has been diagnosed with cancer can get support from Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00.” 

Posted: June 11, 2021

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