NHS tests and scans will be offered at shopping centres and football stadiums to help deal with the backlog caused by the pandemic.
The 40 new “one-stop-shop” diagnostics centres across England will carry out a range of health checks following GP referrals.
The sites include the Glass Works shopping centre in Barnsley, Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and a repurposed retail outlet in Poole.
Around 2.8 million scans will be provided in the first full year, with £350m going towards the project, the government said.
Centres will be staffed by health professionals, including nurses and radiographers and will be open seven days a week.
While the number of cancer tests has returned to pre-pandemic levels after almost half a million people had tests in June and July, the NHS said the centres will continue to help tackle the backlog of all tests built up during the pandemic.
It is also hoped the centres will help doctors make earlier diagnoses through more direct access to a full range of diagnostics tests, reduce hospital visits – and COVID transmission – cut down waiting times and help meet emissions targets.
Patients will be able to have multiple tests on one visit, with different centres carrying out a range of different tests.
Centres will start opening over the next six months and be fully operational by March 2022.
Some centres, which were used for a pilot scheme, are already open, including in Ealing, west London, where all appointment slots have been filled every day for the past year.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Tackling waiting lists will require new and more innovative ways of delivering the services people need.
“That is why we’re making it easier and more convenient to get checked.
“Our new Community Diagnostic Centres will bring those crucial tests closer to home including in the communities that need them most.
“They will help enable earlier diagnosis, allowing us to catch cancer and other issues as quickly as possible, and save more lives.”
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS national cancer director, recommended the changes after conducting a review of diagnostic services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published last year.
He said: “The pandemic brought into sharper focus the need to overhaul the way we deliver diagnostic services and so I am absolutely delighted to see one of the key recommendations of my report becoming a reality for patients so quickly.
“I have no doubt that many people will benefit from these new NHS Community Diagnostic Centres, bringing together many tests in one convenient place.”
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