Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Northern Trust makes funding bid for scanning equipment for cancer diagnosis clinic
A business case for new scanning equipment for a Rapid Diagnosis Centre at Whiteabbey Hospital will be sent to the Department of Health after being approved by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust board at a meeting on Thursday.
Currently 12 patients are being seen at each weekly clinic with the figure expected to double.
Kevin McMahon, the Trust’s director of surgical and clinical services, told the meeting the facility has given patients who have been referred for symptoms such as unexplained weight loss reassurance that they do not have cancer.
“There are the ones GPs know there is something wrong but do not know what,” he explained.
One case of cancer has been detected to date.
Mr McMahon described the clinic as “a really good step forward”.
Board chairperson Bob McCann asked if GPs from “anywhere in the province” can refer patients to the clinic in Whiteabbey Hospital.
He was told, initially it was for east Antrim but it has had referrals from elsewhere. “We are not turning them away,” he commented.
Last month, the Department of Health announced the opening of two Rapid Diagnosis Centres, at Whiteabbey Hospital and at Dungannon’s South Tyrone Hospital for GPs in east Antrim and Armagh and Dungannon to refer patients to the specialist clinics as part of a pilot programme to help reduce the time for cancer diagnosis and improve patient outcomes.
The centres will 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.
The sites will expand to accept referrals from GPs across Northern Ireland.
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.”
Commenting at the launch, Mr McMahon 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.”