What are Rapid Diagnostic Services?

Rapid Diagnostic Services (RDSs) are cited as a key deliverable in the NHS Long Term Plan to support the overarching ambition to ensure that by 2028:

  • 55,000 more people will survive five years or more each year following diagnosis
  • Three in four (75%) cancers will be diagnosed at an early stage.

Cancer Alliances have been tasked with ensuring that RDS service model principles are applied to all suspected cancer pathways and pathways for patients with non-specific symptoms by 2024. 

National funding has been made available to Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA) to support the development, implementation and roll-out of RDSs.

RDSs called Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) in other Alliance areas will support earlier and faster diagnosis, more efficient disagnostic pathways and an improved personalised diagnostic experience, whilst also reducing unwarranted variation and improving opportunities for staff development and innovative working.

RDS Key Principles

The Rapid Diagnostic Services patient journey RDS image

RDS Classifications

Rapid Diagnostics Services are separated into two classifications:

Site-specific services are for patients where their symptoms are suspicious of a specific cancer type, for example bowel or prostate cancer. They are currently being developed and rolled out across Cheshire and Merseyside in a phased approach over the next four years.

Non site-specific RDSs are services for patients with non-specific symptoms where there is a concern that there is a underlying malignancy and that doesn’t meet the criteria for a specific cancer type referral. These symptoms could include:

  • New unexplained and unintentional weight loss (either documented >5% in three months or with strong clinical suspicion);
  • New unexplained constitutional symptoms of four weeks or more (less if very significant concern). Symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, malaise, bloating;
  • New unexplained vague abdominal pain of four weeks or more (less if very significant concern);
  • New unexplained, unexpected or progressive pain, including bone pain, of four weeks or more;
  • GP ‘gut feeling’ of cancer diagnosis - reasons to be clearly described at referral.

These non-specific services are in place at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Royal Liverpool University Hospital), Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Services are currently being developed/discussed at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Aintree University Hospital), Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and East Cheshire NHS Trust.

Pathway: Referrals can be made through your local ERS service as an Urgent Suspected Cancer. National Cancer Waiting Times Standards will be applied to this referral. Once the referral is received the patient will be contacted by the Non Specific Rapid Diagnostic Service for a telephone consultation.

Routes of Referral: The service can be accessed by primary care or selected internal pathways.  

For more information on the CMCA approach to Rapid Diagnostic Services, please contact Project Manager Sarah Griffiths at sarah.griffiths16@nhs.net