Philippa Robinson, Regional Director of London, highlights the critical factors leading to a successful delivery of a community diagnostic centre

The Community Diagnostic Centre at Finchley Memorial Hospital is at the forefront of the transformation of elective care delivery in North Central London. Community Health Partnerships, as managers of this purpose-built community-based health facility, has worked closely with North Central London Integrated Care System, Royal Free London Foundation Trust, and North London Estates Partnerships to get this early adopter site, one of the first in the country, up and running. The CDC opened in July 2021 and was recently highlighted as a case study in the NHS’s delivery plan to tackle the covid-19 elective backlog.

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Finchley Memorial CDC is a great example of where existing NHS facilities can be better utilised and adapted to deliver new Community Diagnostic Centres, as a national policy imperative. As part of the work, CHP and its partners1 delivered space for a mobile CT, mobile MRI, internal works for ophthalmology and other diagnostic services in five months. Mobile units might sound quick and simple to install, but it was more than just having a truck park up, plug in and go. For the mobile MRI, for instance, we needed to clear a soft landscaped area, install power, data and water, as well as a platform to house the truck.

Since opening the CDC has helped reduce the backlog by providing a total of 27,677 additional diagnostic scans split across five modalities as of 31 March 2022. Patient feedback has been good, with 100 per cent of MRI patients say that they have had a positive experience. The patient journey time through ophthalmology testing averages 40 minutes, rather than 2-3 hours at hospital sites.

Partnership working, delivery capability and flexibility of existing good quality estate have been critical factors in successfully delivering the Finchley Memorial CDC. Using a blend of in-house delivery capability and access to our pre-procured supply chain, CHP was able to work with NHS partners to deliver the necessary adaptations at speed. The additional benefit of using the public private partnership is the local knowledge of the building and ongoing maintenance responsibility. CHP’s Developments Team also used their cost estimator to inform early costings, saving time and setting cost expectations early. The ICS ran the overarching governance and weekly project meetings, to co-ordinate the various workstreams including clinical service project management and IT which has been key to services going live for patients.

From a system perspective the key learning points have been the importance of a collaborative and team focused approach across all partner organisations; strong leadership able to problem solve and make decisions; and a system wide approach to demand and financial modelling. These are key considerations to take on board as you undertake your CDC projects.

The health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid said recently that “in the future, most of us will be more familiar with our local CDC than our local hospital.” Community Diagnostic Centres are one-stop-shops for checks, scans and tests right in the heart of local communities. They are the future of healthcare delivery. At Finchley diagnostic services include CT, MRI, ultrasound and ophthalmology scans, additional phlebotomy (blood tests), cardiology and respiratory tests and vascular thermography. The CDC is open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and now sees over 1,200 patients per week. There are ambitious plans to add more; work is underway to house permanent MRI and CT scanners plus an ultrasound academy so that they can train and retain staff, as there is a national shortage of skilled sonographers. This will further boost diagnostic capacity across north central London and provide patients with quicker and more convenient access to important tests for conditions such as cancer, heart and lung disease.

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1Community Health Partnerships (CHP), as the head tenant for the site, worked closely with North Central London ICS and, Royal Free London as the CDC host, LIFTCo North London Estate Partnerships and gbpartnerships consult to deliver the CDC project.