Royal opening for Essex pathology laboratory

Pathology First is one of the highest-specification laboratories in the country, delivering efficiencies, improved quality, faster turnaround times for tests and better value for money

HRH The Duke of Kent has opened the Pathology First laboratory developed by Ashley House for iPP, marking an important first step towards realising the vision of an innovative and high-quality pathology service in south Essex.

Since being awarded the contract in 2014, iPP has committed nearly £10m investment in the new, state-of-the-art pathology laboratory and the reconfiguration of onsite facilities at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Employing over 340 staff, iPP is responsible for achieving significant savings in the delivery of pathology services in the region.

The new hub laboratory in Basildon will be processing almost 12 million tests a year with the capacity to expand further.

As well as investing in the new laboratory, a Pathology First Essential Services Laboratory (ESL) is situated at each of the two hospitals. These laboratories process the urgent tests, often within a one-hour turnaround time, and routine tests from GPs and the hospital where a result is typically required the same day or next day.

Samples arrive from departments such as A&E and paediatric wards. Blood transfusion is also based in the ESLs because this service has to remain on the hospital sites.

By analysing the non-essential tests at the hub instead of in the hospital, the latter is able to turn around the essential tests faster and help the trusts discharge patients sooner.

Initially the new hub laboratory in Basildon will be processing 6,000 sets of samples per day, with the capacity to further expand. It will also analyse the tests for 250 GP surgeries in the region.

By combining the pathology services of the two trusts and implementing a fully-integrated hub and spoke network, iPP has provided a model which, when executed correctly, is recognised for improving quality and speed, while delivering cost savings.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The investment by iPP has enabled the trust and its staff to benefit from equipment and facilities that are among the best in the country. Due to its size and expertise, the patients, hospital and staff employed at the lab are able to access the very-best technology and processes. This means that patients will benefit from faster turnaround times, new tests and the extra capacity as volumes increase in the future. “

Sue Hardy, chief executive of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added: “It is really pleasing that our local communities and the patients we serve will benefit from the state-of-the art equipment which will help revolutionise key aspects of pathology services. The joint venture enables the trusts to do more for our patients by expanding the service, introducing new tests, making test results available faster and assisting our doctors to make the decisions they need to in providing care for our patients. Setting up Pathology First means the trusts have taken full advantage of the resources and expertise available and our teams have the opportunity to work with the latest technology.”

And Stuart Quin, chief executive of iPP, said: “The opening of the Pathology First laboratory in Basildon is an important first step towards realising the vision of an innovative and high-quality pathology service in south Essex.

“When fully operational in April, it will utilise the very latest state-of-the-art,automated technology processing over 12 million tests a year.

The external investment provided by Integrated Pathology Partnerships comes at a time when there is tremendous pressure on NHS budgets and will ensure that a future-proofed, high-quality and resilient service is retained for the benefit of patients in south Essex and beyond.”

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