'One stop shops' to speed up cancer diagnosis to be trialled across NHS

New 'one stop shops' to help speed up cancer diagnosis are being trialled across England for the first time.

The initiative will allow GPs to refer patients to one health centre to undergo multiple tests for different cancers to speed up diagnosis.

It comes as NHS England reported at least 500 cancellations of cancer operations over the winter period which cancer charities warned could impact on patients' survival.

Who will be referred to the 'one stop shops'?

Hundreds of cancer operations have been cancelled due to the NHS winter crisis. Credit: PA

GPs will be able to refer patients suffering from "vague" symptoms such as:

  • unexplained weight loss

  • abdominal pain or discomfort

  • fatigue

  • loss of appetite

  • sweating

  • general feeling of being unwell

These symptoms, alone or combined, can indicate a number of diseases including cancer.

The initiative aims to ensure a quick diagnosis for people not exhibiting signs for a specific type of cancer, NHS England said.

How quickly will patients receive a diagnosis?

Patients could get a diagnosis or the all-clear on the same day. Credit: PA

Some patients will be able to receive a definitive diagnosis or be given the all-clear on the same day.

Others may require further tests but should be diagnosed within two weeks.

Where is the scheme being piloted?

The scheme, co-ordinated by NHS England, Cancer Research UK and MacMillan Cancer Support is being trialled in 10 areas:

  • Airedale General Hospital

  • Churchill Hospital

  • North Middlesex University Hospital

  • Queen's Hospital

  • Royal Free Hospital

  • Royal Oldham Hospital

  • Southend University Hospital

  • St James's University Hospital

  • University College London Hospital

  • University Hospital South Manchester

Why is early diagnosis important?

Early diagnosis can increase survival rates. Credit: PA

Early cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can improve a patients chances of survival, experts say.

Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: "Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country.

"These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated."

The initiative was launched as cancer charities warned that the cancellation of at least 500 cancer operations could impact on patients' survival.

What did the poll find?

Pre-planned operations in England were cancelled due to the winter pressure on the NHS. Credit: PA

A poll of 81 acute NHS trusts found that 43 had cancelled at least one cancer operation between December and February, according to a survey by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Why were operations cancelled?

Credit: PA

Hospitals in England were told to delay pre-planned operations and routine out patient appointments throughout January due to winter pressure on the NHS.

The HSJ said that this figure did include some diagnostic procedures such as biopsies.

Doctors have warned that the 'winter crisis' in the NHS could extend into the summer.

Macmillan Cancer Support's executive director of policy and impact Fran Woodard told HSJ: "Depending on the type of operation, a delay could mean that the cancer not only progresses in that time but that the chances of survival are also affected."

What does NHS England say?

NHS England said that the number of cancer patients treated this year has increased. Credit: PA

A spokesperson for NHS England said that the number of operations this year had actually gone up.

She said: "Actually, despite all the pressures from flu and norovirus, NHS hospitals treated 2,615 more cancer patients this January than last January - that's 5.7% up.

"What's more, the proportion of cancer patients fast-tracked for treatment within 62 days was the highest this January that it has been for the past three years."