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Press release

The King's Fund responds to Steve Barclay's community diagnostics announcement

Responding to an announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care on community diagnostic centres (CDCs), Charlotte Wickens, Policy Adviser at The King’s Fund, said:

‘The expansion of diagnostic capacity is welcome news for the many thousands of patients waiting for a scan or test. More important than the number of CDCs is their ability to speed up access to scans and tests, and on this measure, they are yet to realise their potential. Only 6.3% of tests during August 2023 were carried out in CDCs. Between March and August 2023, CDCs carried out only 717,000 tests. There is a long way to go in terms of building capacity before meeting the ambition of 17 million tests by March 2025.

‘CDCs also had a wider ambition to deliver diagnostics differently, in a way that tackles health inequalities and moves access to diagnostics into underserved and deprived communities. However, setting up CDCs in the community has proven to be expensive and many have been set up on existing NHS sites rather than in new and more accessible locations. This means CDCs may not be as responsive to health inequalities and deprivation as they were intended to be.

‘With the total number of appointments for tests standing at 1.5 million in England, it is perhaps not surprising that the desire to bring down this list trumps the parallel ambition to deliver diagnostic activity differently. But by deprioritising this ambition, there is a risk that limited staffing and financial pressures, coupled with the proportionately small volume of activity being delivered, CDCs may be sidelined in the future in favour of traditional diagnostic provision.’

Notes to editors

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

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