Safety fears over Homerton Hospital’s path lab privatisation plan: Doctor warns move ‘could increase misdiagnosis’

Homerton Hospital, Hackney.

Homerton Hospital, Hackney. - Credit: Archant

A doctor has warned increasing numbers of patients could be incorrectly diagnosed if Homerton Hospital outsources its award-winning pathology services.

The hospital in Homerton Row is currently consulting on whether to privatise the service and has commissioned external experts to advise it.

A petition imploring the trust to keep the service in-house has garnered over 3,000 signatures, ahead of its decision next month.

The lab analyses blood and urine samples and carries out other important tests to ensure patients receive the right diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.

Trust managers had backed the development of pathology at the hospital by commissioning a new lab building in 2014, but the contractors went into administration leaving nothing but a hole in the ground.

People are now concerned the service could be transferred to a “factory lab”, miles across London or even in Essex, which they claim would lead to a deterioration of samples, poorer results and a less responsive service for patients.

Although Homerton does now outsource some specific tests which are less cost-efficient to do in-house, like histopathology, Homerton retains oversight of the tests used.

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Dr Nick Mann from the Well Street Surgery warned: “By privatising the whole service, Homerton will lose the close regulatory oversight which ensures the quality of tests is maintained.

“Private labs may choose to use cheaper, less accurate tests and may also increase such charges to the NHS so as to maximise their profit.

“This has major implications for cost and quality, as well as access to certain tests, and may lead to increasing numbers of patients being wrongly diagnosed.”

A spokesman for Homerton Hospital said the trust needed to review options to ensure it could stand up to the rigorous accreditation process, in addition to ensuring safe, cost effective and efficient services.

He said: “It is true we have commissioned external experts to review the options for the delivery of our pathology services.”

The provision of the outsourced services like histopathology will also be considered over the forthcoming months.