A pilot rapid diagnosis centre (RDC) in Swansea has cut waiting times to cancer diagnosis in half, according to a report published in the British Journal of General Practice.
The clinic allows GPs to refer adults with vague and/or non-specific symptoms suspicious of cancer, who do not meet criteria for referral to an urgent suspected cancer (USC) pathway, to a multidisciplinary RDC clinic where they are seen within one week. RDC patients are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team and undergo computed tomography scan. They see a clinician and Macmillan nurse specialist to discuss the findings.
In this study, a simulation modelled a cohort of 1000 patients referred to the RDC. Control patients were those referred to a USC pathway but downgraded.
Most patients presented with unexplained weight loss, pain, fatigue and shortness of breath. They were categorised into four groups: cancer diagnosis with referral to specialist; non-cancer diagnosis; no serious pathology found with discharge to GP; and no diagnosis, continue investigations.
Control patients waited 84.2 days for diagnosis. Mean time to diagnosis was found to be 5.9 days for RDC patients who received a cancer diagnosis, other diagnosis or were discharged. For patients requiring further investigations, mean time to diagnosis was 40.8 days. If outliers were removed, for example, patients needing specialised services, this decreased to 33.9 days.
Dr Heather Wilkes, GP lead of the Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) RDC says: “The provision of this service, and the ongoing commitment to it by SBUHB as a diagnostic resource for primary care, has made a massive difference in trying to speedily investigate and care for some of the most difficult cases in our community. It is highly valued by patients and GPs alike and has been established as a permanent service following our evaluation.”