Lab Restructuring Moves Ahead in United Kingdom and Ireland

Need to reduce cost of laboratory testing is one motive behind more aggressive steps to consolidate lab services

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IT IS TOUGH TIMES FINANCIALLY for pathology and clinical laboratories in the British Isles. In both the nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the budget woes of the respective national governments are driving major changes in the organization and delivery of laboratory testing services.

In the United Kingdom, efforts by the government dating back to 2010 to reduce annual health spending by the National Health Service (NHS) by a target of 20% have met strong resistance from a wide range of vested interests. That resistance is no surprise.

In the UK and Ireland, pathology laboratory describes what is typically called clinical laboratory in the United States. Histopathology in the UK refers to the services of anatomic pathology as they are known in the United States. Efforts are underway in the UK and Ireland to consolidate pathology labs as a way to achieve cost savings and meet other operational goals.

Lab Joint Ventures in the UK

One interesting aspect of laboratory restructuring in the United Kingdom is use of joint ventures (JV) with commercial partners. To that end, just last month the NHS issued a tender for two potential pathology laboratory joint ventures.

One JV tender requests a proposal to bring the pathology labs of University College London Hospitals and Royal Free London Hospital together with a commercial partner. A second tender names Royal Free London, University College London Hospitals, and North Middlesex University Hospital as the pathology labs to be included in a possible joint venture.

At the same time, there is regional consolidation taking place in different regions across the United Kingdom. An example of this is an announcement last month by the four CEOs of Croydon Health Services, Kingston Hospital, Epsom and St. Helier’s NHS Trusts and St. George’s Healthcare Trust of their intent to develop a plan to consolidate their pathology testing services and base it at St. George’s Hospital.

Pathology Network in Ireland

Meanwhile, similar initiatives are proposed for pathology testing in the Republic of Ireland. However, the significant financial problems of the government have slowed down plans to create one or more central laboratories to handle “cold testing” in the nation of 4.4 million people.

In April, the Board of the Health Services Executive (HSE) endorsed a proposal to establish a national pathology network, as well as to appoint a director to oversee implementing the “new service configuration.”

In both countries, these initiatives to create regionalized, consolidated medical laboratory networks are designed to help control the cost of lab testing without compromising patient service.

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