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Rapid Diagnostic Centres: For Non-Specific Cancer Symptoms

NCL Wide

Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) offer a diagnostic pathway for all patients with non-specific symptoms that could indicate cancer. Most patients are referred to team to exclude cancer in a particular part of the body. Non-specific symptoms are those that do not indicate the likely site of the tumour. Examples include unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain and the recent onset of fatigue. These symptoms are very common in many people who do not have cancer. If a doctor is concerned about your symptoms, the role of the RDC is to investigate patients to identify or exclude cancer and either find the cause or suggest further steps to be taken by your GP or another team.

There is a Rapid Diagnostic Centre at University College Hospital, North Middlesex University Hospital and at the Royal Free Hospital. GPs across NCL are able to refer into the RDCs for patients that have non-specific symptoms that might be due to cancer via the e-referrals system. Your GP will first carry out important blood and stool tests to look for other causes for your symptoms.

Rapid Diagnostic Centres provides a one-stop service where possible and appropriate. This means that patients will be offered the necessary investigations in one visit to the RDC, leading to faster decision making for clinicians and less trips to the hospital for patients.  

Reduce the need for multiple cancer referrals 

Where more than one type of cancer could be causing the concern, the RDC route helps to avoid patients being referred to multiple teams. If a patient is diagnosed with a specific cancer (e.g. bowel, bladder, lung) then the patient will seamlessly transfer to the appropriate specialist team at the same Trust, where appropriate.

Consultant-led triage process that enhances the speed and efficiency of pathway

The triage process helps to plan the steps needed at the start of the pathway before the first appointment. This helps the RDCs to plan a one-stop service where possible.

Tests that exclude or identify cancer and then an onward management plan

Each patient that attends an RDC is investigated to aid a faster diagnosis or exclusion of cancer. Patients who are diagnosed with cancer will remain under the care of the RDC until their care is taken on by an appropriate specialist team.

Effective communication between primary and secondary care

The service works to continually improve the exchange of information between primary and secondary care to speed care and support patients. Frequent discussion between primary care and secondary are held to help ensure that suitable patients are referred to the non-specific symptoms pathway and that the current information is sent back to primary care. 

Enhanced support from clinicians, clinical nurse specialists and care navigators

Each Trust has a dedicated multi-disciplinary team responsible for the effective running of RDCs and good links with the tumour site teams for the seamless transition of patients who are diagnosed with specific cancers.


Watch the five Pancreatic Cancer Action GP Consultation Reconstruction videos accredited by the RCGP:

Eligibility Criteria


  • new unexplained and unintentional weight loss
  • new unexplained constitutional symptoms
  • new unexplained vague abdominal pain
  • GP 'gut feeling' of cancer diagnosis

How to Refer

EMIS form

Referral methods: e-Referrals

The referral process is as follows:

  • order ‘Filter Function’ test bundle (via tQuest or SunQuest)
  • complete ‘Filter Function’ tests
  • once Filter Function test results are returned, download RDC referral form from EMIS and complete (please include as much clinically relevant information as possible)
  • select specific RDC clinic within e-RS
  • submit referral form via e-RS

Where to find the form

Local EMIS global document library systems in the 2WW Cancer Referral Forms folder > Rapid Diagnostic Centre (RDC) Suspected Cancer Non-Specific Symptoms - Referral 



North Middlesex University Hospital

Royal Free Hospital


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Review date: Tuesday, 15 April 2025