Rising demand in cancer diagnostics

NHS England has asked Sir Mike Richards to lead a review of the current cancer screening programmes and diagnostic capacity. The review is set to further improve the delivery of screening programmes and modernise and expand diagnostic capacity.

The Long Term Plan sets a new ambition that, by 2028, the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages one and two will rise from around half now to three-quarters of cancer patients. 

Over the last 20 years, a concerted effort by staff across the health service and the wider medical community has produced improvements in endoscopy service quality, productivity, and patient experience. Services are however still encountering some challenges in planning for and meeting increased demand in a difficult period for the National Health Service; recent waiting times released by NHS England illustrate that demand for endoscopy diagnostic services is outstripping capacity, with no decrease in requirements anticipated in the foreseeable future. 

With the emphasis in the Long Term Plan to increase the proportion of cancers diagnosed, endoscopy departments across the NHS are going to experience everincreasing volumes. Across the UK, the natural evolution of endoscopy services – an increasing focus on infection risks, a need to reduce waiting times for patients and working towards achieving JAG accreditation for the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme – has resulted in services being overwhelmed and no longer fit for purpose. 

Hospitals can pursue a number of avenues to offset the current capacity and workforce pressures within endoscopy services. Outsourcing to either private hospitals or to a managed service company is an established option however it can mean that hospitals lose control over the patient pathway as well as giving up the revenue that comes with those patients. Periods of refurbishment are essential however the disruption to delivering care can result in increasing waiting time.

There is another option available to hospitals that can assist in meeting the demand which is mobile healthcare facilities. Mobile healthcare facilities can provide additional capacity to temporarily increase patient throughput in response to increased demand or offering decant during periods of renovation. 

Mobile endoscopy suites have been utilised across the NHS for 15 years and are a readily accepted method with contract periods available anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to help meet the hospital’s requirements. Vanguard Healthcare Solutions were the pioneers in the delivery of mobile endoscopy and have completed over 50,000 procedures to date. 

Recognising the demand on Trusts to increase endoscopy volumes and renovate existing facilities Vanguard is continuously innovating to provide new products and solutions to assist. Vanguard Healthcare Solutions recently expanded its endoscopy fleet by introducing a new endoscopy dual procedure suite. The brand-new mobile endoscopy dual procedure suite provides the complete solution for hospitals to achieve 48+ JAG points per day. It has been designed in accordance to JAG guidelines as well as to accommodate a complete patient pathway. This extension to the Vanguard portfolio will enable hospitals of all sizes and demand to select suitable flexible infrastructure options to alleviate demand or support refurbishment projects. 

Wolfgang Merkens, Schülke & Mayr GmbH, recently outlined in March’s issue of The Clinical Services Journalthat patient safety is of paramount importance and according to the Medical Devices Directive every patient has the “right to the best treatment,” which includes the right to be examined with a clean endoscope free from viable microbes or biofilm. 

The Vanguard portfolio of mobile decontamination units can cater for small cottage hospitals to the largest teaching hospital reprocessing over 120 scope per day. 

Sir Mike Richards’ review of the current cancer screening programmes and diagnostic capacity is set to be finalised in summer this year, and with the increasing demand it is advisable for hospitals to be ahead of the curve by reviewing their endoscopy services and researching into solutions and contingency plans now.




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