New community diagnostic centres will ensure the Government target of cutting waiting lists is met, Rishi Sunak has said.
The Prime Minister has hailed the community clinics as a key plank in his efforts to drive down NHS waits, with six new centres opening across the east of England, the Midlands and the South East.
More than 100 are already being used across England, with over 30 more set to open before the end of the year.
Amid ongoing pressure on the NHS, ministers are hoping the “one stop shops” for tests, checks and scans can relieve the strain.
In January, Mr Sunak pledged that NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.
But figures released earlier this week showed the number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a record high.
An estimated 7.3 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of March, up from 7.2 million in February.
Mr Sunak said: “I have pledged to cut waiting lists and these new community diagnostic centres will do exactly that.
“By offering checks, tests and scans closer to home, we can speed up the diagnosis of illnesses like cancer and heart disease and ensure patients get their treatment quickly.
“These centres revolutionise the way the NHS delivers care, and crucially they are saving lives.”
The Government and NHS England had also set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April of this year, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer.
But the latest data showed the target was missed.
The new centres have been backed with £2.3 billion, with the latest due to open in Hereford City, Scunthorpe and several other sites.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We know early diagnosis and treatment leads to better outcomes for patients, which is why these centres are so vital.
“Based in the heart of communities, they are making it easier for people to access life-saving checks and cutting out unnecessary hospital visits.
“They have already made a huge difference, delivering nearly four million tests, checks and scans since the programme started in July 2021, helping to deliver on the Government’s commitment to cut waiting lists.”
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS medical director for transformation, said the centres would “continue to increase access to care by providing vital scans, X-rays, endoscopies and blood tests closer to patients’ homes”.