About the ACE Programme

Photo of 3 nurses

Key messages from the evaluation of MDCs

This summary report highlights the key findings from the five MDC projects and draws together the learning gained from their implementation. It also includes the most recent data.

View report

The ACE Programme is an early diagnosis programme that supports the NHS outcome of ‘preventing people from dying prematurely’.

It is a unique initiative supported by Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support and will run across England for 3 years.

The ACE Programme aims to develop the knowledge base on early diagnosis, evaluating and spreading good practice, to inform cancer commissioning in England, specifically:

  1. A shift from late to early diagnosis of cancer at stages I & II
  2. A decrease in cancer diagnoses via emergency presentations
  3. Improvements in overall patient experience

Wave 1 will run until mid-2017.

Wave 2 will run until late-2018.

ACE timeline graphic

Key themes currently being explored by ACE projects include:

  1. Straight to test diagnostic pathways and simplified one stop clinics
  2. Symptom specific pathways such as multidisciplinary diagnostic centres
  3. Overcoming barriers to screening uptake


Wave 1

The first wave of the programme, concluding in 2017, has over 50 projects which are currently exploring innovative concepts such as referral pathways from primary care professionals other than GPs, primary care engagement to overcome barriers to cancer screening and how best to streamline lung cancer diagnostic pathways, amongst others.

Wave 2 (MDC)

The second wave of the programme this year plans to run six pilots in England trialling a new one-stop diagnostic pathway for patients with non-specific but concerning symptoms; an approach incorporating a Multidisciplinary Diagnostic Centre (MDC). As recommended in the Independent Cancer Taskforce report, published last year, the pilots aim to test the effectiveness of the referral route in the NHS in England.

Each cluster of projects have produced a final report and supporting resources, including referral forms and ‘how to’ implementation guides, where possible. The majority of reports include quantitative and qualitative evaluation from the Department of Health’s Policy Research Units, as well as recommendations based on findings. Evaluation of the projects will provide evidence for the 2017/18 commissioning round.  

An overview of what the final reports cover is available now.

The final reports and evaluation from Wave 1 will be available Spring 2017.

Reporting for the five Wave 2 (MDC) sites will be available from 2018.

ACE is a NHS England initiative with support from Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

macmillan logo

ACE is funded by Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS England and the Department of Health's Policy Research Units. As ACE provides only limited financial support to projects, the majority of project funding has come from local, mostly NHS sources.

We’re now on twitter.
Join the conversation and follow @CRUKHCPs for news, updates and opinion.


The University of Manchester are currently conducting a survey into healthcare professionals' and public attitudes towards sun exposure and vitamin D.

Take part

Last reviewed