THOUSANDS more scans and investigations are to be offered to NHS patients in the South West, under a groundbreaking agreement for a series of fixed and mobile diagnostic centres to speed up treatment, reduce waiting lists and provide care closer to home for people in remoter areas.

Five state-of-the-art community diagnostic centres (CDCs) will be created, providing a range of different tests during a single visit, reducing travel and the number of appointments for patients.

As well as providing x-ray, MRI, CT and ultrasound scans, the CDCs will offer endoscopy, blood-tests, and other tests to assess heart and lung problems. 

The array of scans and tests at CDCs and mobile units will help with the diagnosis and treatment of people with a range of conditions, from cancer to joint problems.

The five CDCs will be built on accessible sites, rather than within existing hospital buildings, in Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Torbay, Yeovil and Redruth. 

Work is currently under way to finalise the exact locations, with the aim of making each operational during 2024.

Regional mobile units offering similar diagnostics are already in place, bringing immediate extra capacity in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

InHealth has been appointed as preferred bidder for the project, following a competitive procurement exercise by NHS England in the South West to find the best partner. 

The procurement was carried out on behalf of integrated care boards (ICBs), as the best way of improving access and of bringing rapid increases in capacity and staffing.

The model is based on an integrated workforce, combining NHS expertise with that of InHealth.

Siting more diagnostics on community and accessible sites means the region’s main hospitals will be able to focus more on complex cases and on urgent and emergency care, with less chance that patients have their appointments postponed at times of high demand.

Dr Michael Marsh, NHS England’s South West Regional Medical Director, said: “This is about making a step-change in diagnostics for patients in the South West. 

“We are already bringing down long waits for patients, following the pandemic, but this will make a huge difference in our ability to diagnose people quickly and get them through to treatment.

“It will increase our capacity rapidly, reaching into the more remote corners of the South West as well as serving the bigger centres of population.

“And we hope the model will help us attract and retain staff, as well as training more for the future.”

Geoff Searle, Chief Executive at InHealth, said: “We are thrilled about this partnership with NHS England in the South West, which will support in providing additional capacity, improving health outcomes and increasing the range, scale and accessibility of services for the local population. 

“Through our state-of-the art facilities and with the latest in imaging and healthcare technology, we are confident that the services provided in the Community Diagnostic Centres and mobile facilities will be a huge boost for the local healthcare network and bring real benefits to patients.”