Pressure on vital pathology services is mounting as populations age, chronic conditions increase in frequency and services become constrained by staff shortages. Against this backdrop, outsourced services must evolve to meet the needs of an increasingly challenging diagnostics landscape.
In its latest survey, Meeting Pathology Demand – Histopathology Workforce Census 2018, the Royal College of Pathologists, highlighted that only three per cent of histopathology departments said they had enough staff to meet clinical demand. Added to these pressures, there is an approaching retirement crisis – a quarter of all histopathologists are aged 55 or over and training places remain unfilled.
The college identifies that the cost of staff shortages is not just financial but for patients, it can mean worrying delays in diagnosis and treatment.
HealthTrust Europe has developed the UK’s first OJEU-compliant framework agreement for pathology referral testing and pathology reporting services, to help address these challenges.
The new, free-to-access framework is designed to enable clinical and procurement decision- makers in the NHS to call off time-sensitive pathology services. It addresses bottlenecks and delays – caused by staff shortages and peaks in demand – in a timely and cost-effective way.
With increasing pressure on diagnostic services, the first framework to be OJEU-compliant has an important role to play in meeting the ‘model hospital’s’ aims of providing the best patient care in the most efficient way.
Daniel Chapman, director of diagnostics at HealthTrust Europe explains:
“listening to, and consulting with clinicians and suppliers, was critical in developing the only OJEU-compliant, easy-to-use, pathology services framework. The end result addresses all the major concerns over quality, consistency, efficiency and value for money.
“As we all know, pathology services are critical to meeting targets in the NHS – both in terms of diagnosis and treatment. As a key pillar of the NHS Improvement programme, pathology services are under rigorous scrutiny as the drive towards network integration and improved operational and clinical efficiency continues apace.
“As a healthcare solutions partner, we understand how imperative it is for any pathology framework to provide consistency, quality and seamless integration. Those qualities ensure the framework adds value both clinically and operationally.
“Pathology services are facing several challenges while having to meet an escalating demand. Every year the NHS carries out over 500 million[i] biochemistry and 130 million haematology tests; over 50 million microbiology requests are processed; over 13 million histopathology slides and four million cytology slides are examined.
“It’s not only important that the process – from taking a patient sample, through to testing and reporting – works seamlessly and effectively but also that it adds value by relieving the pressure on healthcare providers and reducing diagnosis turnaround,”
HTE’s Pathology Referral Testing and Pathology Reporting Framework draws on expert providers to include full coverage of tests and reporting across five lots. It can be accessed either via direct award or mini competition.
The lots include routine and esoteric testing with electronic reporting of results, consultant-led cytology testing and screening and histopathology reporting with clinical support and interpretation.
“The framework is the first of its kind and must be reliable and efficient to ensure it is trusted to add value to pathology services. With this in mind, we have worked hard to offer immediate access to compliant, comprehensive and cost-effective solutions. These eliminate the need for time-consuming tender processes, reduce the number of SLAs to manage and offer flexibility in the availability of electronic formats that will integrate seamlessly with cloud-based and laboratory IT systems,”
“We are acutely aware of the time and cost pressures these services are under but also on the need to deliver accurate and reliable services that meet patients’ needs and that can potentially lead to improved outcomes.
“The OJEU-compliant framework has been designed to remove the administration burden and human error from transcribing test results into the laboratory information management system (LIMS). It also facilitates the consolidation of all SLAs into one agreement to support quick and easy outsourcing across a comprehensive portfolio of pathology referral testing and reporting services.
“To further reduce the administrative burden, the framework provides one point of contact for the entire end-to-end process. In addition, all of the logistics are taken care of within the contract price. This eliminates the need for additional logistics arrangements, the hassle of managing multiple logistics providers and transport legislation requirements.
“Having a broad pool of specialists available, the framework supports the 62-day cancer turnaround targets while freeing up admin time. This allows for an increased focus on other activities that will help improve capacity and performance such as training or systems integration.
“Ultimately, we understand that optimising services through utilisation of the framework relies on trust and, to that end, we undertake comprehensive and rigorous vetting of suppliers to ensure they follow best practice guidelines. They are also regularly audited to stringent KPIs to drive continuous performance improvement and excellence which includes ensuring validation of clinical registrations. To reinforce protection of patient information and ensure confidentiality, we have also adopted 100% GDPR compliance.”