Over recent years, there has been a huge increase in demand for health and care services generally – and more specifically, for diagnostics. Technology is moving fast; with the development of population health systems, more personalised medicine, the unlocking of genomics and the promises offered by big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can no longer expect each Trust laboratory to keep up. We must ensure they are able to invest in the associated transformation required to maintain high quality services.

At the same time, emerging technological development and improved connectivity will enable more local undertaking of diagnostic tests; tests that were traditionally done in every hospital laboratory. Most importantly, with the very real concerns about the availability of the skills and talent needed – and the relentless pressure on service funding – acting alone is no longer a viable option.

How we are helping pathology services

That’s where the Cheshire and Merseyside Pathology Network comes in. The aim of the network is to consolidate pathology services across the footprint, by bringing together seven NHS Trusts, to work collaboratively to ensure delivery of a regional pathology service fit for the future, whilst addressing the significant demand and delivery for services in a financially challenging time.

Published in 2019, The NHS Long Term Plan outlines a number of national initiatives designed to improve clinical efficiency and safety. By offering a ‘digital-first’ option to support services, particularly Pathology, the plan aims for quicker test turnaround times, improved access to more complex tests, and better career opportunities for healthcare scientists at less overall cost.

Collaboration on a service-delivery model will optimise use of the highly skilled workforce within pathology services, helping to deliver the most consistent, clinically appropriate turnaround times; ensuring the right test is available at the right time in the right place.

Building a regional pathology network for Cheshire and Merseyside

Currently we are developing a pathology network at a scale, which, in terms of population served and the number of organisations involved, has not previously been attempted in England.

Our ambitious plans include:

  • Investigating how services can be delivered most efficiently, for example by consolidating some work onto fewer sites.
  • Integrating IT systems and implementing digital pathology so we can share information between hospitals when needed and get results back to patients quickly. This will also contribute to RDC’s (Rapid Diagnostic Centres).
  • Purchasing equipment and services collectively so we get more for our money.
  • Developing the workforce to improve skills, job satisfaction and retention.
  • Working with primary care to ensure the right tests are done at the right time and reduce unnecessary tests.
  • Improving quality by optimising cancer pathways and standardising processes.
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