Quest Diagnostics Regains Contract to Manage British Hospital Lab

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HAVING DECLARED IN JANUARY THAT IT WANTED TO EXPAND OVERSEAS, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated announced on March 22 that it had been awarded a five-year contract to provide laboratory services to a hospital trust and primary care trust in London, England.

Quest Diagnostics will provide 24/7 laboratory services for the 362-bed West Middlesex University Hospital, as well the Hounslow Primary Care Trust, which serves a population of approximately 215,000 people in the area surrounding the hospital. Lab testing services will be provided from both the hospital laboratory and Quest Diagnostics’ lab facilty in nearby Heston.

Quest Diagnostics won a tender offered by the National Health Service (NHS). There were at least six other laboratory organizations that responded to the tender. Among the bidders was London-based The Doctor’s Laboratory, which is a business division of Sonic Healthcare, Ltd., of Sydney, Australia.

In England, Quest Diagnostics and The Doctor’s Laboratory are the two major private laboratory companies. By American standards, both private lab companies are relatively small, with revenues estimated at or below U.S.$20 million per year.

Outsourcing Lab Services

One interesting fact about the award of the laboratory services contract for the hospital and primary care trust is that Quest Diagnostics is winning back business it previously held. The West Middlesex University Hospital Trust CEO is comfortable with outsourcing laboratory testing services and Quest Diagnostics held this contract up until about 2002. At that time, a new tender was conducted and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust beat out Quest Diagnostics for the contract. Sources in England tell THE DARK REPORT that Hammersmith Hospitals did not deliver a consistently high level of laboratory services. This played a role in helping Quest Diagnostics win back this contract during the recent tender process.

Private Laboratory Ventures

Further, the willingness of the CEO at West Middlesex University Hospital to outsource laboratory services is unusual in the United Kingdom. Probably the only other situation where an NHS-owned hospital has a contract with a private laboratory company is the joint venture between University College Hospital, London, and The Doctor’s Laboratory.

Another point of interest is that Quest Diagnostics is providing lab testing under an NHS program that offers free chlamydia testing for adults aged 16 to 24 at 350 Boots pharmacies in England and Wales. Specimens collected at the pharmacies are sent to Quest Diagnostics, where the test is performed and results are reported to patients and their physicians.

In the United Kingdom, there is some private demand for healthcare services and both Quest Diagnostics and The Doctor’s Laboratory offer testing to office-based physicians serving what is called the “High Street” market in the United Kingdom. This term describes the patient self-pay market for individuals opting to avoid using the country’s government health service.

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