In 2019, NHS England asked all Cancer Alliances to set up at least one Rapid Diagnostic Centre (RDC) for patients with non-specific symptoms that could indicate cancer. These symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain or nausea, and a GP ‘gut’ feeling about cancer.

Previously, there was no dedicated urgent diagnostic pathway for this cohort of patients, who do not necessarily fit the criteria for a referral onto a specific 2ww pathway. They would often see their GP multiple times before referral; present more often in an emergency setting; present with late stage cancer; or be referred on multiple urgent cancer pathways.

In 2019, RM Partners piloted a secondary care, GP-led approach to delivering a vague symptom Non-Site Specific RDC service which:

  • Provided a one-stop service where possible. The RDC pathway group has developed a range of protocols and guidelines to support the management of vague symptom patients within RDC clinics (see right).
  • Offered consultant led triage to enhance the speed and efficiency of the pathway
  • Gave patients a clear diagnosis or onward management plan
  • Enabled effective communication between primary and secondary care
  • Provided enhanced support from clinicians, clinical nurse specialists and patient navigators
  • Reduced the need for GPs to make multiple cancer referrals

An evaluation of the service highlighted the benefits of adopting this approach and the model was recommended for full implementation across each of the acute providers within west London to ensure equity of access. Eight RDCs have since been established across our geography at:

  • Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
  • Croydon University Hospital
  • Epsom Hospital
  • Kingston Hospital
  • Northwick Park Hospital
  • St George’s Hospital
  • St Helier Hospital
  • West Middlesex Hospital

A further RDC at Imperial (based at St Charles Hospital) is due to be delivered to ensure there is full coverage and access for patients across the RM Partners population.

For more information, please contact Melissa Wright, senior project manager, Melissa.Wright7@nhs.net