Interim report shows value of Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services

Hundreds of patients receive earlier referral.

More than 12% of patients cared for by one of Scotland’s three Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service received an early cancer diagnosis, with a further 33.8% receiving a diagnosis of a non-cancerous health issue, an evaluation report has found.

Interim findings of the independent report show that the pilot services in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, NHS Dumfries & Galloway and NHS Fife are providing a clinically safe and effective rapid service to rule out or rule in cancer for patients who have non-specific symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue and nausea. The service allows people to get tests and results more quickly than previously.  

The University of Strathclyde report was commissioned by the Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) at NHS Golden Jubilee to look at the first year of the services.

Across the three services:

  • 962 patients were seen up to October 2022.
  • 12.1% of patients received a cancer diagnosis.
  • 33.8% received a diagnosis of a non-cancerous specific health issue.
  • 54% received no diagnosis and were provided reassurance, with the majority redirected to Primary Care.
  • 14 days’ average from RCDS referral to RCDS outcome.
  • For those diagnosed with cancer, 61.7 days’ average from RCDS referral to first treatment.

The report also reflects on the experience of patients and primary care clinicians that have used a Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service. High patient satisfaction ratings were given by 96% of patients and the same proportion felt diagnostic tests were carried out quickly.  

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, speaking during a visit to the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service in NHS Fife - winner of the Innovation Award at the Scottish Health Awards 2022 - welcomed the findings.

Mr Yousaf said:

“This report demonstrates that patients value the speed of referral and diagnosis, as well as the personalised support provided, through NHS Scotland’s first Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services.

“Providing primary care with a new referral route means this group of patients are able to understand the cause of their symptoms, and rule cancer in or out, more quickly.

“We are looking forward to the next two new RCDSs opening in NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire that will build on the learnings included in today’s report.”

Phil Hodkinson, Co-Clinical Lead Earlier Cancer Diagnosis at the CfSD, said:

"The interim report from the University of Strathclyde is very encouraging, clearly showing the benefit of the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services to patients. Importantly, the report demonstrates the role these new services have in diagnosing cancer in patients that may not normally have been referred to a tumour site-specific pathway. We are excited to continue the support for the development of Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services across Scotland and look forward to the full analysis next year.”


Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service Interim Report

Patient satisfaction was high and they were impressed with the speed of investigations, results and tailored communication approach, with staff taking the time to assess and understand their individual health and social background in depth. A survey of 162 patients from across the three RCDSs showed:

  • 96% rated the service as 8 or more out of 10.
  • 96% felt that diagnostic tests were completed in a timely manner.
  • 95% responded positively about the level of care provided.
  • 95% felt they could ask questions or get more information as needed, with 89% knowing of a named contact that could provide this information.
  • 91% reported that they were given clear information about next steps.
  • 86% agreed that their referral to RCDS helped them understand the cause of symptoms more quickly.

Primary care experience

A survey of 50 primary care clinicians from across the three Health Boards showed:

  • 92% were aware of the service in their area.
  • 85% rated the overall experience as 4 or more out of 5.
  • 66% were familiar with the referral criteria, with a further 22% having some familiarity.

It was recently announced that two new Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services will open in NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire during 2022/2023.

A final RCDS evaluation report covering a full two year period of the RCDSs running, is due to be completed in late autumn 2023 – this will help determine the impact of the services, their cost-effectiveness and optimal components.  

Earlier cancer diagnosis | The national Centre for Sustainab (



Media enquiries

Back to top