10th December 2020

Scotland to pilot Early Cancer Diagnostics Centres

View all Early detection

The Scottish Government has pledged £3million to pilot two Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres (ECDCs) in Spring 2021.

The plans, outlined in the Scottish Government’s ‘Recovery and Redesign’ action plan for cancer services, aims to address  the ‘tsunami of late stage cancer cases as a result of delayed referrals and disruption to screening services during the pandemic’.

It is hoped that these centres will result in fewer hospital visits and speedier diagnoses, especially where patients have vague symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and unexplained weight loss.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on cancer, with cancer diagnoses in Scotland falling by around 4,000 between March and June.

The ECDCs will be able to provide “multiple tests at one appointment” and see patients “assessed and tested by a team of specialists during one visit”.

It added: “The Centres will result in fewer hospital visits for patients, providing them with the right tests in the first instance.

“This is in contrast to multiple referrals to different specialties, which include the risk of unnecessary investigations or inadvertent repeat investigations, until a diagnosis is confirmed, be it cancer or another serious condition.”

The pilot will also see six new mobile MRI and CT scanners rolled out, and health boards will also be “encouraged  to increase GP direct access to CT scans” to speed up testing for possible cancer patients.

Paula Chadwick is the chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation:

“Far too often, we hear patients going back and forth to their GP with potential symptoms for months, even years, so we are very pleased to hear GP will have more immediate access to CT scans through the Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres.

CT scanner remains the best diagnostic tool we have to detect lung cancer at present, so it is vital that those with symptoms have the required tests as soon as possible.”

Paula Chadwick

Phase one of the pilot will begin in Spring 2021 with the introduction and evaluation of centres in “at least two sites”, with plans to create an ECDC in all three of Scotland’s cancer regions: the West of Scotland, North Scotland, and South-East Scotland.