Cwm Taf University Health Board is about to pilot a ‘one stop’ rapid diagnostic clinic for cancer, after a fact-finding mission to Denmark just 12 months ago.
The clinic, based at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, aims to detect more cancers in people who present with vague symptoms and significantly cut diagnostic waiting times.
The six month pilot will enable GPs, initially in the Cynon Valley, to refer patients within one week for a series of tests so treatment can start much earlier if needed.
In March 2016 clinicians from NHS Wales including Cwm Taf took part in a study tour to Aarhus in Denmark to find out how the Danish health service is speeding up cancer diagnosis.
One of the key changes introduced in Denmark is a system where patients who do not have clear symptoms of a specific cancer are offered diagnostic tests within a few days, or sometimes hours of a GP making a referral.
Special “one stop shop” diagnostic centres have been set up for those with more vague symptoms, while other open access centres are able to provide quick ‘yes/no’ tests and to report back quickly to GPs. Clinicians in Denmark say the tests do not cost more money as they would need to be done anyway, but that early diagnosis for those with unclear symptoms means better outcomes for patients.
At present if patients have obvious symptoms of cancer they are placed on an Urgent Suspected Cancer Pathway (USC) which defines the route to diagnosis and treatment. But only 35% of all cancers diagnosed within Cwm Taf are referred using the USC pathway, demonstrating the need to explore alternative routes for those patients who do not present in primary care with “alarm symptoms”.
John Palmer, Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health at Cwm Taf University Board said: “Clinicians in Cwm Taf had already adopted many of the principles of the Danish model including a ‘one stop’ neck lump diagnostic process; direct access to radiology investigation for breast lesions and a one-stop clinic for prostate cancer, to speed up referrals and diagnosis. But we wanted to go further, especially after seeing the system working so well in Denmark. Too many people present late or wait too long in the system as a result of vague symptoms that could be cancer and we hope that our pilot will be an important step in turning that around.”