Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust have approved a full business case (FBC) for a new London pathology network.
The new partnership, which will be called the East & South East London NHS Pathology Partnership, will aim to consolidate all pathology services held by each trust into one central pathology service, hosted by Barts Health.
Once fully operational, the partnership will manage pathology laboratories across seven sites including: The Royal London Hospital, which will also serve as the hub for the network, Whipps Cross Hospital, Newham University Hospital, St Bartholomew's Hospital, Homerton, Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and University Hospital Lewisham. Except for RLH and QEH, the other hospitals will retain an Essential Services Laboratory (ESL) on-site which will include the Biochemistry, Haematology, Blood Transfusion and Microbiology services necessary for addressing any of each hospital’s urgent needs. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich will run as an ESL+ lab providing an extended testing scope for the high GP workload received.
The three trusts, who have equal ownership of the partnership, hope to realise a number of benefits over time including, improved quality of pathology services through the investment in new laboratory infrastructure, new cutting edge laboratory equipment and technology, and new opportunities for staff development and training. Additional benefits such as faster response times and higher efficiency across the network will result in cost savings for the trusts. An estimated £51million of savings is expected over the course of the partnership which will be shared across the organisations. The formation of this network is also in line with NHS Improvement (NHSI) and Carter report recommendations and follows national reconfiguration of pathology services across the country, to improve service quality and efficiency.
The next steps will be for the trusts to draft and sign a Partnership Agreement and for all laboratory staff to become part of the host partner, Barts Health, via the TUPE process.
All pathology services will continue as they are until at least Spring 2021, while the trusts make steps to enter the transition phase which will include the upgrade of IT systems, recruitment, and transfer of supplier contracts to the host, Barts Health.
Alwen Williams, Chief Executive of Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “We are proud to be part of this much needed NHS partnership with two of our neighbouring trusts. We are committed to improving our pathology services across this patch of London and have great plans for the new network including creating a central hub hosted by The Royal London Hospital, which we will take great pride in. We believe the investments made will pay off tremendously for our patients, staff and the wider London community that we serve.”
Tracey Fletcher, Chief Executive of Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are pleased to have approved the business case for this important NHS partnership which will manage pathology services for hospitals in both east and south east London. We will also see the development, at Homerton, of new laboratory facilities in the shape of an Essential Services Laboratory to ensure we can provide fast turnaround testing services for our A&E and other key acute services. We will now be supporting the setting up of this partnership over the next few months.”
Ben Travis, Chief Executive of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said: “We are excited about establishing an NHS pathology network with Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The new network will provide many benefits for the communities we serve and for our staff, while keeping these services in the NHS. Over recent months, we have seen the benefits of joined-up pathology services, as we have worked closely with Homerton and Barts to provide effective services, including staff testing, during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are excited about building on this good work and continuing to improve services through forming a pathology network with our partners.