‘Homerton’s A&E could go if path lab gets outsourced’

Homerton Hospital

Homerton Hospital - Credit: Archant

Homerton’s A&E could be downgraded to an “urgent care centre” if the hospital loses its path lab, the local health watchdog has claimed.

Homerton Hospital

Homerton Hospital - Credit: Archant

The warning, denied by the hospital itself, came from patient group Healthwatch Hackney in a report about the future of the pathology department, which analyses blood and urine samples.

It had been scheduled an upgrade last summer, but contractor Longcross Construction went into administration a few months after work started. Now outside consultants are drawing up a long overdue report on its future, commissioned by hospital chiefs.

It is feared pathology services could be consolidated along with others in the seven local authority areas in the North East London “footprint” in the proposed NHSE Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP). “Collaborative opportunities” could cut the £71m currently spent in area by £2m, or three to seven per cent, NHSE estimates.

The Healthwatch Hackney report states: “If pathology services are outsourced, cases such as suspected meningitis or sepsis may bypass the Homerton and transfer straight to sites where the tests can be performed. Bypassing the Homerton could eventually result in the Homerton being downgraded to an urgent care centre and not a full A&E.”

The Healthwatch report warns the bariatric unit for obese patients, the specialist sickle cell and thalassaemia blood disorder centres and the regional neurological rehabilitation unit are also at risk, and that Homerton could also lose its status as a teaching hospital.

The hospital insists any changes to the path lab would not affect patient-facing services.

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But Hackney GP and honorary union secretary Coral Jones, who helped draw up the report, told the Gazette: “If A&E is downgraded to an urgent care centre, then you can’t deal with acute care. Homerton certainly wouldn’t be the hospital it is now embedded in the community.”

“Once you take A&E out you can’t have maternity or paediatrics. Once an A&E gets downgraded those services go.”

The hospital’s council of governors, City and Hackney CCG and Healthwatch Hackney all support pathology services remaining at the Homerton, and nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition.

A spokesman for the hospital said: “Homerton services will continue to be able to request and receive pathology tests to support clinical decision making, and there is no intention to reduce the availability of tests used by our services.”