Shopping centre clinics to help tackle NHS backlog
New one-stop shops for scans and tests will be set up in community venues in England, including shopping centres and a Premier League football stadium.
Ministers said the network of 40 diagnostic clinics will help tackle the growing backlog in hospital treatment.
They will be able to carry out checks on cancer patients and scans to see if people need surgery for things such as knee and hip replacements.
The aim is to have them all up and running by March.
They will be kitted out with a range of equipment to carry out X-rays, breast screening, ultrasounds and CT and MRI scans.
Among the sites chosen for the new clinics are:
- The Glass Works shopping centre in Barnsley
- Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s Amex Stadium
- A department store in Poole
- A new community health clinic in Oldham
“Tackling waiting lists will require new and more innovative ways of
delivering the services people need.”
What difference will the clinics make?
Carrying out diagnostic tests in community settings is nothing new. A number of hospitals already operate similar clinics – in fact some of the sites included in this announcement are running now.
The investment is much needed. Access to tests and scans is a real bottleneck in the system at the moment, slowing down the ability of the NHS to work its way through the backlog in routine care and, sometimes, delaying the diagnosis of cancer.
The aim is to get these tests done within six weeks of referral, unless it is an urgent cancer case.
But currently nearly a quarter of patients wait longer than that. Before the pandemic fewer than 5% did.
The NHS carries out more than 15 million diagnostic tests a year. The government says these clinics will be able to do 2.8 million.
But as there is a shortage of specialists to carry out these tests, it remains to be seen by how much these clinics will expand capacity rather than just lead to services being transferred from hospital into the community.
The need for investment in diagnostic tests was highlighted in the NHS Long Term Plan in 2019.
A review published last year – led by former cancer tsar Prof Sir Mike Richards – said the pandemic had just heightened the need for changes to the way tests are provided.
The idea was to create greater capacity in the community so hospital testing and scanning facilities can be focused more on emergency patients.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the investment – worth £350m – would help tackle the backlog in treatment caused by the pandemic.
“Tackling waiting lists will require new and more innovative ways of delivering the services people need,” he said.
“That is why we’re making it easier and more convenient to get checked.”
And NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard added: “These one-stop shops will also help us to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and other serious conditions, ultimately sparing more patients and families the pain and trauma of disease.”