Faster testing for prostate cancer is being introduced across Northamptonshire to ensure more patients can benefit from quicker diagnosis and treatment.

The RAPID prostate pathway is one of the priority projects of the national Cancer Transformation Programme, supporting the introduction of the new NHS Faster Diagnosis Standard from April 2020. This will ensure that all patients who are referred for cancer investigation should have it ruled out or diagnosed within 28 days.

RAPID is a streamlined, evidence-based, fast-access, one-stop MRI-imaging and diagnostic pathway for men suspected of having prostate cancer. Its aim is to ensure more patients can receive faster diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer, leading to the best possible clinical outcomes, improved patient experience, more effective use of healthcare resources and achievement of cancer waiting times standards.

Previously, men referred for prostate cancer investigation would have to make multiple hospital visits to obtain a diagnosis – but this is reduced to just one under the new RAPID pathway, with diagnostic imaging and biopsies carried out on the same day, including MRI before biopsy where appropriate.

During 2019 pre-biopsy MRI was introduced across the county for men meeting the criteria, followed by a pilot for the full pathway at Northampton General Hospital in late 2019. This enabled biopsies to be prevented for 24% of patients. Patient feedback from this pilot has been positive, with patients saying they are less anxious as a result of the new pathway due to fewer visits to hospital, quicker diagnostic tests and receiving clearer communication.

One patient who attended a clinic at NGH in February said he was impressed with the new service. He said: “Visited today to have prostate checked. Very quick and informative. No problems at all with the appointment.”

Roll-out of the pathway across Northamptonshire, including development of same-day clinics and moving towards delivery of a one-stop prostate assessment service, commenced at NGH in January 2020 and will begin at Kettering General Hospital from March 2020.