NHS pathology services to be reviewed

A review of quality assurance arrangements for NHS pathology services has been announced by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh: ‘Every patient should receive the best care possible.'
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh: ‘Every patient should receive the best care possible.'

The review will be led by Dr Ian Barnes, national clinical director for pathology, and will scrutinise NHS arrangements for the oversight and safeguards of laboratory testing.

The review will bring together experts in the field to explore how quality assurance systems can be strengthened and how organisations can be more confident about the monitoring of the quality of care they offer the public. Recommendations will consequently be made for the NHS Commissioning Board to consider.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: ‘Every patient should receive the best care possible. With advances in technology and practice, I want to ensure that quality remains at the forefront.’

Around two million pathology tests are carried out by the NHS every day, and serious incidents are rare. However, concerns were raised at Sherwood Forest NHS Foundation Trust in Nottinghamshire in October about pathology testing of breast cancers, used to choose the best treatment for each patient, where the care of a small number of women was disadvantaged.

In light of this, the review will work to find out what more can be done to strengthen processes that exist in order to detect, correct and prevent problems like these in the future.

Dr Ian Barnes said: ‘This is important work which will help to assure the processes that govern laboratory testing are as strong as they can be. The UK has an enviable reputation for its pathology services and I look forward to making recommendations as to how the NHS can maintain and better this.’ 

The review will begin in January and a final report is expected by the end of 2013.

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