The NHS Cancer Programme’s strategic approach to Faster Diagnosis of Cancer brings together previously separate objectives relating to RDCs and Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS),  Best Practice Timed Pathways and seeks to align this work with other related programmes such as the CDC programme. It supersedes the RDC Vision and Implementation Specification published in 2019.

The new framework consolidates and simplifies the ambitions previously set out in the RDC Vision and Implementation Specification 2019 and the FDS Best Practice Timed Pathways documents. It sets out an approach to implementation focused on more measurable objectives, supported by more specific metrics that are directly linked to the impact delivered by the programme.

NHSE will use the umbrella term of Faster Diagnostic Pathways to describe all cancer pathways following an urgent suspected cancer referral, including the NSS (non-site-specific) pathway. Therefore the programme will be the Faster Diagnosis programme encompassing NSS pathways and BTP / SS pathways. However NHSE acknowledge that where NSS services are called RDCs this can continue, if agreed locally.

For patients with suspected cancer, the Faster Diagnosis Programme aims to deliver:

  • An earlier and faster diagnosis to patients whether or not they are ultimately diagnosed with cancer
  • Excellent patient experience, a holistic assessment of patient needs, and streamlined support across community, primary and secondary care.
  • Increased capacity in the system, through more efficient diagnostic pathways.
  • Support systems to reach the Faster Diagnosis Standard

Download the NHSE / I Faster Diagnosis Framework document here

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1. Early identification of patients where cancer is possible, including outreach to target existing health inequalities.

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2. Timely referral based on standardised referral criteria and appropriate filter function tests.

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3. Broad assessment of symptoms resulting in effective triage, determining whether and which tests should be carried out and in what order, based on individual patient need.

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4. Co-ordinated testing which happens in fewer visits and steps for the patient, with a significantly shorter time between referral and reaching a diagnosis.

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5. Timely diagnosis of patients’ symptoms, cancer or otherwise, by a multi-disciplinary team where relevant, and communicated appropriately to the patient.

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6. Appropriate onward referral to the right service for further support, investigation, treatment and/or care.

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7. Excellent patient co-ordination and support, with patients having a single point of contact throughout their diagnostic journey, alongside access to the right information, support and advice.

These principles remain the core underpinning of this framework, with the Best Practice Timed Pathways documents providing the clinical detail for how tests can be coordinated and timely diagnosis achieved for patients with defined symptom criteria.