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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Cancer detection clinics set to double at Whiteabbey Hospital

Woman in ct scanner

The number of patients attending the Rapid Diagnosis Centre (RDC) at Whiteabbey Hospital is set to double with two clinics to be held weekly.

The specialist clinic is part of a pilot programme to help reduce the time for cancer diagnosis and improve patient outcomes. Approximately 12 patients can be seen at each weekly clinic at present.

It is one of two RDCs in Northern Ireland for GPs in east Antrim and Armagh and Dungannon to refer patients. The other is located at Dungannon’s South Tyrone Hospital.

The centres receive referrals for patients with non-specific but concerning symptoms which may lead to a diagnosis of cancer but do not meet the criteria of other red flag cancer pathways.

Initially, the RDC in Whiteabbey was for east Antrim but it has had referrals from elsewhere.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, chief executive Jennifer Welsh said the RDC at Whiteabbey Hospital is part of a 10-year cancer strategy.

“GPs in the area are referring patients directly to the Rapid Diagnosis Centres if patients have symptoms which they suspect might be cancer. Patients get co-ordinated examination and investigation in one stop. Clinicians will make a referral to the appropriate location.”

She said the clinic will be increased to two per week from the autumn. The chief executive reported a “high pick up rate” for the service which she indicated will be “rolled out to all GPs across Northern Ireland”.

Kevin McMahon, the Trust’s  director of surgical and clinical services, said at a previous Trust board meeting the facility has given patients who have been referred for symptoms such as unexplained weight loss reassurance they do not have cancer.

“These are the ones GPs know there is something wrong but do not know what,” he explained. Mr McMahon described the clinic as “a really good step forward”.

Commenting at the launch last December, he said:

“This is a really welcome development supporting Trust teams to work with GPs to provide an early diagnosis for patients with vague but concerning symptoms that do not fit into any of the existing referral pathways.

“Whilst this is initially for the local east Antrim population, we look forward to expanding this service to a much wider population in the near future.”

The Department of Health says:

“Patients referred to the RDCs will receive co-ordinated examination and investigations in a one-stop environment with rapid reporting of results.

“The clinician will make an onward referral to the appropriate speciality for patients who require further investigation or treatment.”


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