The NHS is set to radically overhaul the way magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography (CT) and other diagnostic services are delivered for patients, if it implements a major new report submitted last week to NHS England.
Community diagnostic hubs should be created across the country, away from hospitals, potentially in free space on the high street or retail parks, so that patients can receive scans close to their homes, recommends the report from Professor Sir Mike Richards on diagnostic services, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
The report, presented to the NHS England and NHS Improvement board meeting last week, says diagnostic checks in emergency departments should be separated from tests taken ahead of routine procedures, and access to blood tests in the community should be expanded so that people can give samples close to their homes, at least six days a week, without having to go to hospital.
The report acknowledges 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be implemented over time, requiring significant investment in facilities, equipment and workforce alongside replacing outdated testing machines.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 the 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 2000 additional radiologists and 4000 radiographers as well as other support staff.
“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,” said Sir Mike, adding that the need for radical change has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.