Pioneering community diagnostic centres are launching across Cheshire and Merseyside, enabling patients to get earlier diagnostics tests closer to home

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Patients across Cheshire and Merseyside are set to benefit from earlier diagnostic testing closer to home, thanks to five new community diagnostic centres (CDCs) that will be opening across the footprint by March 2022. The first of these CDCs, located in St Helens, was the first of its kind to be up and running in the country and opened its doors in July 2021, shortly followed by a second site, located in Clatterbridge. With both centres already helping to increase testing capacity in our region, having already collectively enabled (within a three-month period from opening in July to the end of October), an impressive 5,000 additional patients to receive life-saving checks, scans and tests closer to their homes.

Led by the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership, the five community diagnostic centres located across the region will form part of a wider national initiative, that’ll see over 100 community diagnostic centres backed by Government investment launch across England, to make services more accessible and convenient for patients. The centres which are, as a collective, predominantly located away from hospital sites, including on the high street and in retail locations, will achieve this by providing patients with quick and easy access to various diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, and endoscopy, in one place. Enabling patients to visit a hub, or ‘one stop shop’ as they’re referred to, closer to home, in order to get multiple tests completed at the same time, helping them to get diagnosed earlier, ultimately sparing more patients and families the pain and trauma of disease, and saving lives by allowing interventions to start sooner.

The community diagnostic centres, which were one of the recommendations put forward by Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS national cancer director, who conducted a review of diagnostic services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published last year, will be staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff including nurses and radiographers. With the centres in Cheshire and Merseyside being spread out across the nine local authority areas that make up the footprint. Including the CDCs in St Helens and Clatterbridge that are already operational, and additional facilities at the Victoria Infirmary in Northwich, Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and in Ellesmere Port, that’ll be operational by March 2022.

It’s hoped that collectively, the centres across England will provide around 2.8 million scans in their first full year of operation, helping to tackle the backlogs that have built up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst also safeguarding against future waves by facilitating a reduction in hospital visits, which will in turn help to cut down the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and support a reduction in hospital-waiting times, for patients in need of urgent treatment. With the decrease in the number of journeys patients have to make for checks, scans and tests, also helping to cut carbon emissions and air pollution, which will help to aid the NHS’s net zero ambitions.

Speaking about the launch of community diagnostic centres, Ian Triplow, CDC Programme Director, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharper focus the need to transform the way we deliver diagnostic services, so I’m delighted to be a part of the team that’s helping to facilitate the launch of these pioneering community diagnostic centres within Cheshire and Merseyside. Especially when considering the impact that our two live sites have already had to date, collectively helping 5,000 more patients than we’d have been able to see prior to these sites having launched. Which is a huge accomplishment, when you think about what getting these life-saving checks, scans and tests done quicker will mean to patients who are waiting for a diagnosis, and the positive impact this’ll have in helping to improve outcomes for them, because they’ll be able to start treatment (if they need it) sooner. And this is only the start, as once our three additional sites get up and running, the number of patients we’ll be able to support across our region will only increase further. Whilst we’re also developing business cases for further centres, which if successful, will increase the number of centres we have in Cheshire and Merseyside, and help to increase the positive results we’re seeing already”.

Dr Liz Bishop, Chief Executive and SRO of the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, added:The community diagnostic centres that are launching across Cheshire and Merseyside will make a real, measurable difference to patients in our region. As not only will they enable patients to get earlier diagnostics tests closer to home, but they’ll also help us, as health and care professionals, to catch diseases and other issues as quickly as possible, improving patient care and saving more lives. The hubs will also support us with easing pre-existing staffing pressures in our region and across the country that were exemplified during the pandemic, reducing the cost of CT and MRI scanners through bulk buying, and will also present an opportunity for us to put the right digital infrastructure in place to connect care settings not just locally, but nationally”.

The five Cheshire and Merseyside community diagnostic centres will begin providing services over the next 6 months, with two already up and running, and the additional three to be operational by March 2022. You can find out more information about the centres launching across England here.

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