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Over 100 patients have been referred to multidisciplinary diagnostic clinics (MDCs) being trialled at three hospital sites across west London to detect abdominal cancers earlier.

Croydon University Hospital, St George’s Hospital and St Helier Hospital are piloting the clinics to offer rapid diagnosis for patients with vague abdominal symptoms, such as pain and weight loss, that do not point to a specific underlying cancer type but who do not meet the 2ww urgent referral criteria. St George’s is also accepting referrals for any suspected cancers if the referring clinician is unsure about which pathway to use.

Previously, these patients would bounce around the system and go back and forth between primary and secondary care before a diagnosis is made. Concerned GPs can now refer such patients directly to the MDC. Both Croydon and St George’s also accept referrals of inpatients awaiting diagnostic tests, which allows for earlier discharge and frees up a hospital bed.

Primarily the aim is to diagnose upper GI, pancreatic, colorectal, urological, ovarian, and rare endocrine tumours much earlier, as well as to streamline the onward referral process for those patients with benign disease who require secondary care attention or monitoring.

Once referred, the patient is triaged and then quickly booked in for the most appropriate diagnostic tests. The patient journey is monitored throughout by a patient navigator, whose role is to ensure that both the patient and their GP are kept informed of diagnostic test dates and clinic appointments and that the pathway is as smooth and efficient as possible. The patient is not referred back to their GP until cancer or other serious pathology is excluded.

The CCGs currently involved include Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth. It’s estimated that between 300 and 500 patients will be seen across all three sites by end of March 2018. A full evaluation will be carried out by the end of 2017, focusing on measuring the success and benefits, including patient experience, with a view to wider roll out across RM Partners diagnostic Trusts.

For more information please contact Tim Bill, project manager, at Timothy.Bill@nhs.net