Warning key services ‘at risk’ if Homerton’s path lab is moved off-site

Homerton Hospital

Homerton Hospital - Credit: Archant

Vital services like the sickle cell centre at Homerton Hospital could be at risk if its pathology lab is outsourced, it has been warned.

The department, which analyses blood and urine samples, had been earmarked for upgrade – but contractor Longcross Construction went into administration last year a few months after work started.

Outside consultants are now drawing up an overdue report on its future, commissioned by hospital chiefs and due in the next couple of months.

A document made public this month as part of NHS England’s new Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) recommends “collaborative opportunities” for Hackney and seven boroughs around it. Consolidating pathology could cut the £71million now spent in the area by £2m, or 3 to 7 per cent, the paper says.

But Healthwatch Hackney has written a letter urging chiefs to keep pathology at Homerton, and nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition.

Hackney GP and honorary union secretary Coral Jones told the Gazette it would be difficult for Homerton to treat patients like women with complicated pregnancies or others with sickle cell and thalassaemia blood disorders without the specialised path lab on site.

She said: “If you are having a sickle cell crisis and you pitch up to the Homerton and the tests have to go off-site, you have to transport them and samples deteriorate. There are going to be delays.

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“The expertise that has been built up at the Homerton will be gone. Pathology is not clear cut and it depends on the interpretation of the pathologist. Although sickle cell is common in Hackney, it’s an uncommon disease.”

In an email to staff, chief exec Tracey Fletcher said : “Unfortunately and unpredictably, the building contractors went into liquidation and therefore the building work was halted. In the intervening period building costs had risen sharply due to the inflation levels in building costs in London. Hence, the need to review what options we have available to us.

“The review has coinided with national views being formed, in part through the report written by Lord Carter on how to achieve efficiencies.”