The NHS long term plan and the impact on diagnostics

Faster diagnosis standards for cancer care: the NHS Long-Term Plan and the impact on medical diagnostics

Billy Williams, Account Manager at FMC Global Talent.
Billy Williams, Account Manager at FMC Global Talent.

In January 2019 the NHS unveiled their long-term plan. This sets out exactly how the £20.5bn budgeted for the NHS will be spent over the next five years.

One of the biggest areas of investment set out in the long-term plan is diagnostics and cancer treatment. The NHS is aiming to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028, and part of this goal involves serious investment in diagnostics.

The outlined changes to medical diagnostics in the UK include the following…

Faster diagnosis standards

Many of the changes being rolled out are underpinned by a desire for a faster diagnosis standard. This will be introduced from 2020 and means that patients will get either a definitive diagnosis or have cancer ruled out within 28 days of being referred by their GP.

This has huge benefits for patients, whether they are diagnosed with cancer or not. For those given a diagnosis, they can start their life-saving treatment early. For those who have cancer ruled out, their period of worry is dramatically reduced.

Rapid Diagnostics Centres

From 2019 there will be a roll-out of new Rapid Diagnostic Centres across the UK, bringing the latest technology and expertise to more and more people in faster time.
These centres will help to diagnose all patients who have suspected cancer, allowing quicker access to a diagnosis.

RDCs will also have the means to allow patients who have severe ‘red-flag’ symptoms to self-refer, cutting out the ‘middle-man’ of a GP in urgent cases.

Investment in equipment

Currently, the UK has fewer CT and MRI scanners per person than most OECD countries, yet the number of patients referred for diagnostic test has risen 25% over the last five years. This imbalance is being addressed by the Long-Term plan, and the NHS are investing huge amounts of money in new equipment.

Safer and more precise treatments

The Long-Term plan focuses hugely on advancing the kinds of treatments available to cancer patients, and are wanting to offer safer, more precise treatments with fewer side effects and shortened treatment times.

There is a planned £130 million upgrade of radiotherapy systems across the UK as well as plans to add proton beam treatment facilities in London and Manchester.

By 2021 the NHS are aiming for everyone diagnosed with cancer to have access to personalised care and treatment plans.

Mobile CT scanners

There are also plans that will impact more specific types of cancer within the Long-Term plan. To help catch more lung cancers at an early stage, mobile lung CT scanners will be rolled out across the UK.

These will be available in supermarket car parks and will be an accessible way for patients to access diagnostics, particularly in the areas of the country with the lowest lung cancer survival rates.

What does this mean for manufacturers of diagnostic and oncology equipment?

With the cash injection into both diagnostic and radiotherapy systems, the demand for these technologies is set to increase.

This investment combined with the Operating Model reforms mean that companies specialising in diagnostic or cancer care equipment will have an opportunity to become preferred suppliers.

Companies that manufacturer these products may need to increase both their sales team to sell to the procurement boards, as well as their service team. The more equipment there is across the UK, the more talent these companies will require to keep them in full working order.


If you’re a company specialising in medical diagnostics and are interested in recruiting for either your sales or service team, get in touch with me on