Rapid diagnostic cancer clinics – one stop shops designed to make assessments quicker – have been rolled out across south west London with another on the way as part of the local NHS’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A clinic recently opened at St Helier Hospital following the launch of one at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton and also covering St George’s Hospital in Tooting. Another is set to launch at Kingston Hospital shortly.
People with vague, non-specific symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, appetite loss and abdominal pain, or signs suggestive of cancer can be referred several times for different tests for different cancers, but these centres help end that.
Should a GP or other healthcare professional suspect cancer, they can refer people to the local clinic where all the necessary investigations can be done under one roof by a specialist team – with patients usually seen within two weeks of their first appointment. The centres also pick up a number of non-cancer diagnoses, in which case the patient is referred to the relevant specialty. Others can be provided with the reassurance that all is okay.
Merton’s Clinical Lead for Cancer at South West London Clinical Commissioning Group and local GP Navdeep Alg, who has referred patients to the St Helier clinic, said: “As a GP, if your patient has a clear symptom, there is a pathway that they can be referred to. Sometimes patients present with vague symptoms such as weight loss or exhaustion and there could be many causes for this, one of which could be cancer.
“These clinics help to diagnose patients with vague symptoms when the GP suspects that it could be cancer and they help clinicians with patients when their symptoms do not clearly fit into a referral pathway. This can help to prevent delaying diagnosis of a serious condition.
“I had a patient with what turned out to be long Covid but at the time he had weight loss, extreme exhaustion and loss of appetite. I wasn’t sure if it was long Covid or whether he may have some sort of cancer. He was sent to the service and was seen very quickly. After tests and discussions, he was told it wasn’t cancer – that gave him reassurance and me reassurance as a doctor.”
Dr James Marsh, Group Deputy Chief Executive at St George’s, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals and Health Group, said: “We are very pleased to play our part in speeding up cancer diagnoses for local people in south west London by launching another one stop shop at St Helier Hospital in addition to the one we run at Queen Mary’s Hospital, and its spoke sites, which has undertaken almost 50,000 diagnostic tests since opening in July 2021, benefiting thousands of local people.
“By working together in south west London, the local NHS will be able to see and diagnose more patients more quickly and ensure they receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible and closer to home.”