New clinics in Wales are helping to diagnose patients with concerning symptoms more quickly as part of nationwide work to cut cancer waiting times.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has welcomed the opening of Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDC) across Wales.
These RDCs are part of a national programme supporting health boards in Wales to provide GPs with an additional option to investigate vague symptoms that may be caused by cancer. The Rapid Diagnostic Centre can provide quick reassurance to people with no cancer, help to diagnose a range of other chronic health conditions or refer people on for cancer treatment more quickly.
Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:
“With one in two people developing some form of cancer in their lifetime, improving outcomes for cancer patients in Wales is one of NHS Wales’ top priorities.
“It is fantastic to see such innovative work being introduced, including rapid diagnostic centres and other programmes to increase capacity, speed up diagnosis and reduce anxiety for patients at a potentially difficult time in their lives.
“This has been a really challenging time for our health service but I am pleased to see work being carried out to improve cancer services for the better.”
Dr Daniel Menzies, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Glan Clwyd Hospital, said:
“The Rapid Diagnosis Clinics provide clarity for the patient and certainty for the GP and hopefully allows us to pick up cancers earlier than we would normally.
“Under normal circumstances patients who present to their GP with non-specific symptoms take a number of tests to figure out what is causing them. Now these patients are referred into the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic in just under a week, undertake diagnostic evaluation including all the CT imaging and we provide an answer for them in that timeframe.
“The clinics provide certainty and diagnosis quickly for patients where there are concerns about cancer. It can only be a good thing if we can make the diagnosis sooner and get patients onto the correct treatment quicker and similarly if they are worried what might be causing their symptoms, such as weight loss, we can provide some clarity and reassurance that there is not a serious underlying problem.”
Another project which aims to improve the time it takes to diagnose and treat has been introduced in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board as part of the Cancer Innovation and Improvement Programme (CIIP) to treat post-menopausal bleeding.
The new Rapid Access Clinic provides a one-stop ‘see and treat’ service which quickly diagnoses patients with symptoms of vaginal bleeding after menopause. A same day service will be available to those who require further investigation or treatment where possible.
As well as significantly reducing the average time taken to reach a diagnosis, it reduces the significant anxiety that patients experience while waiting.
Professor Tom Crosby, Wales’ Clinical Director for Cancer, said:
“NHS cancer services are under unprecedented pressure due to the effects of the COVID pandemic and previous rising demand for diagnostic and treatment services. As well as requiring investment in infrastructure and most importantly the cancer workforce, we must also use this current time to service pressures to improve and innovate in the way we support patients through complex pathways.”
As well as these rapid diagnosis services, health boards in Wales have introduced a range of innovative ways to improve cancer outcomes for patients with the help of the Wales Cancer Network.
This includes how cancer centres in Wales have responded to emerging scientific evidence to safely reduce the number of appointments required to deliver radiotherapy.
Patients with breast and prostate cancer, who often require radiotherapy, will only need to attend five or seven treatments instead of 15, 20 or 37 separate treatment appointments previously. This will free up significant capacity to treat more people sooner with advanced radiotherapy techniques.
The Welsh Government is also investing heavily in new radiotherapy planning and delivering equipment, such as new CT machines at all three cancer centres and £8.3m in new linear accelerators to ensure equipment is up to date, reliable and can deliver the latest advanced techniques.