Pathology lab merger should make ‘no difference’ to patients, say bosses

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

Homerton Hospital which recently merged with the Barts and Lewisham & Greenwich trusts to form the NHS East & South East London Pathology Partnership. - Credit: Archant

Patients should “not see any difference” in care following the recent and long-debated reorganisation of local pathology services, according to Homerton Hospital bosses.

The hospital recently merged with the Barts and Lewisham and Greenwich trusts to form the NHS East & South East London Pathology Partnership.

This move to regionalise pathology into a so-called "hub-and-spoke" model has long been a source of concern for local activists, with Hackney Labour voicing concerns in recent years over the potential for delays and errors in treatment.

However, Homerton has reassured patients that they “should not see any differences to what they had expected in the past”.

Chief executive Tracey Fletcher said: “Many of our pathology colleagues will continue to work on site at Homerton and, in due course, will be working in a much improved environment as we move forward with the creation of an essential services laboratory at the hospital.”

The partnership formally launched on May 1, with plans for all laboratories across the three hospitals to operate as a single network by December 2023.

This network will operate labs at the Homerton, Newham, Queen Elizabeth, Royal London, St Bartholomew’s, Whipps Cross Hospitals, as well as University Hospital Lewisham.

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It is understood that there were no redundancies as a result of the merger.

While warnings over a potential downgrading of the Homerton’s emergency department or even looming privatisation have not come to pass, local watchdog Healthwatch Hackney continues to have concerns.

Executive director Jon Williams said: “We remain concerned, in spite of assurances that patients will see no change, that the risk of moving any matter around more widely has a risk to it and may result in a poorer service."

He pointed to past warnings from the Royal College of Pathologists that such changes could undermine the quality of pathology. 

Healthwatch is also concerned with sickle cell anaemia patients, a condition experienced by many in Hackney’s African-heritage and Turkish communities, receiving quick responses to testing.

But Homerton stressed in the planning phase for the partnership that quick turnaround tests were “non-negotiable” with many tests ran in other hospital's already. 

Work will begin on the Homerton’s new Essential Services Lab (ESL) later this summer. 

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