The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the backlog of patients waiting for diagnostic tests. This waiting list, combined with a shortage of diagnostic professionals1 and increased pressure on our healthcare system, makes it critical to transform diagnostic pathways. In response, the UK government has set ambitious targets for new community diagnostic centres (CDCs), with plans to deliver up to 160 CDCs by 2025 – including over 90 that are already up and running, with over one million checks and tests delivered as of June 2022.2
It is planned the CDC network will boost testing capacity to around nine million additional tests and checks a year. By providing a broad range of diagnostic services in a local setting, the ambition is for community diagnostic centres to relieve pressure on overstretched hospitals and offer patients faster and easier access to testing. However, meeting patient expectations while coping with existing pressures will not be straightforward.
Vision to reality
Siemens Healthineers partners with NHS and healthcare organisations to realise their CDC vision from conceptual thinking to patient footfall. By consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, collating critical data, and implementing lean thinking, we help our partners to make informed decisions to create an optimised facility tailored to the needs of the local patient population.
With the proven tools outlined below, the Siemens Healthineers Value Partners for Consulting team works with CDCs to reach their maximum potential and achieve their desired objectives.
Health Flow Design: Tailored CDC planning
Transferring treatment to CDCs is likely to be a gradual process. As patients shift to community centres from settings such as outpatient departments, CDCs will become more established, potentially increasing demand for additional services. Community diagnostic centres therefore need to be designed with flexibility in mind. At Siemens Healthineers, our consulting team uses Health Flow Design to ensure CDC facilities are truly fit for purpose, and that they are adapted to the specific needs of local populations. Key stakeholders are given an active voice in the development stage, to produce a comprehensive plan optimised for patients and healthcare professionals alike.
Workforce Planning: Optimising staffing
The CDC workforce needs to be highly flexible and efficient to support rising diagnostic demand. However, transformation of workforce management is no easy undertaking. One measure is to allow staff to undertake a broader range of responsibilities, rather than being constrained by their job roles. A further measure is to increase training and apprenticeship programmes, which can help staff to upskill, but also attract new talent for the future workforce. Bringing in our Workforce Planning can refresh existing models, or even help to create new staffing systems that are more suitable for a CDC.
Simulation Modelling: Futureproofing the CDC
Digitalisation is integral to maximising CDC efficiency. Once a CDC is operational and generating data, it becomes possible to analyse whether equipment is being used to its full potential. For instance, ideal MRI scan rates are 2-3 per hour. If this isn’t being achieved, CDCs can identify the actions they need to take to achieve optimal use.
Siemens Healthineers Simulation Modelling assesses how CDC facilities are performing and predicts future performance. These insights allow diagnostic centres to plan how they will cope with expected demand, and to optimise resource use. The tool can also be used to analyse complex data and create accessible graphics, informing decision-making and allowing for continual operational oversight and improvement.
See: Cancer Research UK, NHS staff shortages: What’s needed to build a sustainable cancer workforce?, 12 October 2020 https://news.cancerresearchuk.org/2020/10/12/nhs-staff-shortages-whats-needed-to-build-a-sustainable-cancer-workforce/;
The Guardian, NHS lacks 6,000 staff needed to run testing centres in England, 23 Feb 2022 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/23/nhs-lacks-6000-staff-needed-to-run-testing-centres-in-england;
The Royal College of Pathologists, COLLEGE REPORT FINDS UK WIDE HISTOPATHOLOGY STAFF SHORTAGES, 16 September 2018, https://www.rcpath.org/discover-pathology/news/college-report-finds-severe-staff-shortages-across-services-vital-to-cancer-diagnosis.html
NHS England, One million checks delivered by NHS ‘one stop shops’, 6 June 2022 https://www.england.nhs.uk/2022/06/one-million-checks-delivered-by-nhs-one-stop-shops/