In plans outlined by the Scottish Government today, hundreds of patients across Scotland are to receive earlier referrals to cancer diagnostic services.
More than 12% of patients cared for by one of Scotland’s three Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service received an early cancer diagnosis, with a further 33.8% receiving a diagnosis of a non-cancerous health issue, an evaluation report has found.
Independent report on rapid cancer diagnostic services
Interim findings of the independent report show that the pilot services in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, NHS Dumfries & Galloway and NHS Fife are providing a clinically safe and effective rapid service to rule out or rule in cancer for patients who have non-specific symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue and nausea. The service allows people to get tests and results more quickly than previously.
The University of Strathclyde report was commissioned by the Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) at NHS Golden Jubilee to look at the first year of the services.
Across the three Health Boards, with 162 patients and 50 primary care clinicians surveyed:
- 962 patients were seen up to October 2022.
- 12.1% of patients received a cancer diagnosis.
- 33.8% received a diagnosis of a non-cancerous specific health issue.
- 54% received no diagnosis and were provided reassurance, with the majority redirected to Primary Care.
- 14 days’ average from RCDS referral to RCDS outcome.
- For those diagnosed with cancer, 61.7 days’ average from RCDS referral to first treatment.
Patients and clinicians’ feedback
The report also reflects on the experience of patients and primary care clinicians who have used a Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service. High patient satisfaction ratings were given by 96% of patients and the same proportion felt diagnostic tests were carried out quickly.
Speaking during a visit to the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service in NHS Fife – winner of the Innovation Award at the Scottish Health Awards 2022 – Cabinet Secretary for Health and Care, Humza Yousaf welcomed the findings.
Yousaf said, “This report demonstrates that patients value the speed of referral and diagnosis, as well as the personalised support provided, through NHS Scotland’s first Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services.
“Providing primary care with a new referral route means this group of patients are able to understand the cause of their symptoms, and rule cancer in or out, more quickly.
“We are looking forward to the next two new RCDSs opening in NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire that will build on the learnings included in today’s report.”
Co-Clinical Lead Earlier Cancer Diagnosis at the CfSD, Phil Hodkinson said: “The interim report from the University of Strathclyde is very encouraging, clearly showing the benefit of the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services to patients. Importantly, the report demonstrates the role these new services have in diagnosing cancer in patients who may not normally have been referred to a tumour site-specific pathway. We are excited to continue the support for the development of Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services across Scotland and look forward to the full analysis next year.”
It was recently announced that two new Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services will open in NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire during 2022/2023.
A final RCDS evaluation report, covering a full two year period of the RCDSs running, is due to be completed in late autumn 2023. The Scottish Government hopes this will help determine the impact of the services, their cost-effectiveness and optimal components.
With cancer survival rates in Scotland amongst some of the worst in Europe, it is good news that the Scottish Government is investing in new cancer diagnostic services.
With the fallout from the pandemic still being felt across the health system in Scotland, Ministers are keen to show the public that they have a robust plan.
Getting access to cancer tests save lives. Given the ongoing cost pressures to all public services, more screening will not only improve outcomes, but will also help to reduce the economic burden to the taxpayer.