Pathology is the study of disease, its causes and progression.

Nearly every patient in the NHS has had dealings with pathology services at some point. Every time you give a sample, it is analysed by a pathologist or pathology scientist, known as a biomedical or clinical scientist, depending on their skills and qualifications.

Pathologists look for abnormalities within samples but, quite often, these tests are performed to confirm everything is OK. Through preventative screenings, tests can help with the early detection of potentially fatal conditions.

Pathology also plays a major role in research, such as finding treatments for cancer and ensuring that blood transfusions are safe.

Collaboration across Lancashire and South Cumbria

Four hospital trusts in Lancashire and South Cumbria are working together to improve these pathology services for patients.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, have been working on this project with staff and external partners. The project aims to provide a streamlined, sustainable service which is clinically and cost effective.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, pathology staff and other stakeholders have been - and will be - fully involved in reviewing how services currently operate. Working groups have been finalising a number of clinical models and these will form the basis of the outline business case about how we configure our services in the future. All the options retain some pathology services in every hospital and centralising all pathology services is not an option that is being considered.

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These are the key messages about the progress of the collaboration:

  • We are planning to develop a collaborative pathology service across Lancashire and South Cumbria. 
  • The development of pathology collaboration supports the priorities of the ICS. The service will remain an NHS service delivered by NHS staff.
  • We have involved staff including clinicians in meetings throughout the year to produce the plans for the service going forward, and staff update sessions for all staff are held regularly.
  • As a diagnostic support service which is largely non patient facing, patients will not have to travel further or be affected adversely.
  • The collaboration will ensure sustainability of the service and achieve value for money in terms of efficiencies.
  • A larger, more sustainable service will be able to develop services to adopt the new technology that the current system would be unable to do, such as technological advances using personal genomic profiles to make cancer treatments more effective.

If you want more details, or would like to get involved in the review being undertaken by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Pathology Partnership, please contact Gillian Crankshaw.

Formation of Single Pathology Service Proceeding at Pace

Work has continued at pace on the formation of a single pathology service for Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Over the Summer, several significant milestones have been achieved and there is now a clear route map in place that will see the service becoming operational by Autumn 2023.  

The outline business case for the programme of work is with NHSE/I for approval and the programme has been given the green light to proceed to developing a full business case. Once the FBC is approved, this will release the £30 million capital that will be used to build a new state of the art pathology hub at the Enterprise Zone in Samlesbury.  The hub will process all non urgent tests and the majority of GP work for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System.  The capital will also pay for upgrades to the essential services laboratories that will remain on existing acute hospital sites to deliver the testing provision needed for emergency and urgent care pathways.

The initial designs for the Hub have been drawn up with the architects and the process of appointing the modular contractor is underway, which will mark the start of the detailed design process.  There are several key workstreams that will continue to run in parallel to the design and build phase.  A major procurement exercise is underway to purchase a common laboratory information management system. This will improve communication between the labs and ensure that test results can be shared more easily. A separate procurement process is also running to buy equipment for the Hub and purchasing at scale will enable investment in the latest technology in future pathology services. The use of digital technology will revolutionise how and where pathology services can be provided and the programme is linked into the work that is on-going to establish community diagnostic hubs.

All acute trusts within the integrated care system are part of the pathology collaboration and there is a requirement for one Trust to act as the host. It was agreed at the Pathology Board meeting in July that Lancashire Teaching Hospitals will host the single pathology service subject to the formation of a collaboration agreement and the completion of due diligence which is underway. An extensive amount of work is on-going to develop the governance arrangements and to ensure that all the legal requirements of forming the new entity are met.

During the Autumn time, it is the intention that the Collaboration Agreement will be ratified and the formation of the single service will be agreed, becoming formally established by April 2022.     

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