The NHS is seeking to tackle increased demand over the coming winter months by introducing quicker diagnostic methods. It has already set up a series of ‘one stop shop’ hubs around the country, where patients can undergo a range of tests and checks at short notice for some of the most common serious health conditions.
These fast-tracked tests are now being expanded to include respiratory and heart conditions, a press release by NHS England reports. The scheme is already in place for cancer tests, with 80,000 extra people receiving more urgent checks since it was introduced.
The diagnostic hubs ease demand for specialist referrals to consultants and are helping to reduce waiting times. The latest test and checks will help to identify people at risk of heart failure, and can also diagnose asthma and lung conditions such as COPD. This will also help to reduce ambulance call outs and A&E hospital admissions.
Medical Director for Secondary Care and Transformation, Dr Vin Diwakar, said: “We know how important it is to diagnose people with conditions like heart failure, COPD and asthma early, so they can get the treatment they need to manage their condition well, and to prevent more serious conditions or illness from developing.”
He added: “Our plans to enhance GP direct access will enable thousands more to get a vital diagnosis sooner, and by capitalising on the additional capacity provided by over a hundred community diagnostic centres offering a ‘one stop shop’ for tests in the community, patients can benefit from convenient triaging and testing near their homes.”
“NHS staff are already making significant progress in reducing the covid backlogs, and this efficient way of testing, can potentially help us to reduce that even further.
“As ever, if people are concerned they may have symptoms of asthma or other respiratory symptoms such as persistent cough, breathlessness, wheezing then please do get checked out, particularly ahead of the winter months.”
Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: “Cutting waiting times is one of this government’s five top priorities and by speeding up access to tests for major conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, we can ensure patients get quicker diagnosis and treatment.
“We’ve already seen the benefits this can bring when it comes to cancer and, by expanding these initiatives to other conditions, we can ease some of the pressures that build up on the NHS in the winter months.
“In addition, our forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy will go even further in improving care for those living with the conditions eligible for access to these fast-tracked tests.”
There are fears that the UK may see a surge in respiratory conditions this winter, as vaccine take ups drop and masks and social distancing are very much in the past. Some healthcare professionals are also warning that the country is underprepared for a fresh wave of Covid that may occur as new cases have begun to spike overseas.
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