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Modernising pathology services

A £62 million overhaul of NHS pathology services is set to create new networks and redesign current working practices.

Historically, pathology has been at the vanguard of advances in medicines. Now the challenge is to build on those technological and scientific developments to deliver care in new ways, in new settings and among a new combination of providers. The recently published Modernising Pathology Services sets out the next steps for delivering high-quality diagnostic services for patients.

Its key focus is to develop managed pathology networks. Clinically-led networks will provide a structure for service planning and delivery, promoting seamless care and support staff by directing resources where they are most needed.

Dr Ian Barnes has been appointed as the Government's first national pathology adviser to champion pathology modernisation across the country.

Health minister John Hutton said: "I am delighted to welcome Dr Barnes to this post. This appointment builds on the launch, this February, of a new strategy for modernising pathology services. Dr Barnes will now drive forward these changes and chair the new national pathology modernisation group."

Dr Barnes is also a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and an experienced and respected consultant clinical scientist.

He will be responsible (with the National Pathology Modernisation Group) for:

  • disseminating key messages on modernising pathology to the NHS and stakeholders
  • advising the Department of Health on the use and allocation of funding
  • supporting the sharing of good practice in pathology across the NHS
  • networking with the NHS Modernisation Agency and other key stakeholders to redesign pathology services
  • working with the diagnostics industry to support the uptake of new technology, new ways of working and effective point of care testing services.

Of the new strategy for delivering pathology services, Dr Barnes said: "This is an opportunity for pathology to drive change forward. There is no prescriptive single model for managed networks but this is more about a way of working together across health care sectors to improve patient care.

"Effective pathology services will need enough staff with the right mix of skills and competencies and workforce plans need to be drawn up to support improved delivery."

The department's pathology modernisation project leader Deirdre Feehan said: "Modernising services is about more than just creating capacity, it is about encouraging the pathology workforce to think about how they can take services closer to the patient, such as point of care testing.

"With the NHS putting patients at the centre, pathology staff have a clear opportunity to think about what can they do to help deliver this agenda."

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