Pavilion Health Today
Supporting healthcare professionals to deliver the best patient care

Community diagnostic centres “yet to realise their potential”

The government has announced it will open 160 community diagnostic centres by March 2024, a year earlier than planned.

The government has announced it will open 160 community diagnostic centres by March 2024, a year earlier than planned.

Currently, 127 community healthcare hubs have already opened, with 40 now due to open earlier than planned.

The government says these new hubs will increase NHS capacity and speed up tests, checks and scans for patients, providing capacity for 9 million more tests by 2025.

But Charlotte Wickens, Policy Adviser at The King’s Fund, says “there is a long way to go” before this ambition is met.

Just 6.3% of tests were carried out in community diagnostic centres this summer

This is because only 6.3% of scans and tests during August 2023 were carried out in community diagnostic centres.

Furthermore, between March and August 2023, community diagnostic centres carried out just 717,000 tests.

Therefore, Ms Wickens says while the expansion of diagnostic capacity is “welcome news” for patients awaiting scans and tests, the most important thing is their ability to speed up access to scans and tests.

“On this measure,” she says, “they are yet to realise their potential.”

Diagnostic hubs can speed up diagnoses of cancer and heart disease

The scheme, which is backed by £2.3 billion in capital funding, will see community diagnostic centres crop up in a variety of locations, including shopping centres, university campuses and football stadiums.

The government has announced three of locations where the new diagnostic hubs will open, including Queen Mary’s Sidcup, Halifax and Chichester University. Combined, these facilities are predicted to provide at least 158,000 checks once fully operational.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said community diagnostic centres have been “instrumental in speeding up the diagnosis of illnesses like cancer and heart disease” and ensuring patients are treated more quickly.

“This has been made possible by using all capacity available to us and drawing on the independent sector – helping us to cut waiting lists, one of the government’s top five priorities,” he said.

In total, 13 community diagnostic centres (CDCs) are led by the independent sector, with eight of these already operational. There are a further 22 CDCs located on the NHS estate where the independent sector is providing diagnostic services.

These independently run community diagnostic centres function like NHS-run CDCs but by making use of the available capacity in the independent sector patients can access additional diagnostic capacity free at the point of need.

Community diagnostic centres have potential to tackle health inequalities

Ms Wickens now wants to see CDCs deliver on their ambition to administer diagnostics differently, in a way that “tackles health inequalities and moves access to diagnostics into underserved and deprived communities.”

“However, setting up CDCs in the community has proven to be expensive and many have been set up on existing NHS sites rather than in new and more accessible locations. This means CDCs may not be as responsive to health inequalities and deprivation as they were intended to be,” she said.

“With the total number of appointments for tests standing at 1.5 million in England, it is perhaps not surprising that the desire to bring down this list trumps the parallel ambition to deliver diagnostic activity differently. But by deprioritising this ambition, there is a risk that limited staffing and financial pressures, coupled with the proportionately small volume of activity being delivered, CDCs may be sidelined in the future in favour of traditional diagnostic provision,” she concludes.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read more ...

Privacy & Cookies Policy
Verified by MonsterInsights