Headlines: September 12th, 2005

The Department of Health is to look at ways to speed up the handling of diagnostic tests as part of a review of pathology services to make them more responsive to patients’ needs. The Health Minister, Lord Warner, has launched ‘Modernising Pathology: Building a Service Responsive to Patients’, a review to be chaired by Lord Carter of Coles.It will look at a range of issues, including the use of technology, bringing services closer to patients and the involvement of the independent sector. The review will investigate three key areas – access, convenience and choice.At the moment about 98 per cent of routine blood tests are turned round within 24 hours but the review will look at options for bringing more testing closer to the patient, such as in GP surgeries, to cut those times still further. It will also look into extending the availability of high street testing, which is already available for a number of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. On choice, the review will consider ways of allowing patients to be tested and receive results in a variety of settings. Those might be at a local doctor’s surgery, a pharmacy or in a hospital ward or accident and emergency department.

Lord Warner said modernising pathology services was vital because almost all NHS patients needed diagnostic tests at some point. Waiting for diagnosis and the results of tests could be a worrying time and he wanted to provide easier access to tests and results as quickly as possible.

Alongside the announcement of the review, the National Histopathology Schools Network has also been launched. The schools have already increased recruitment to this speciality from around 60 places in 2001 to 108 with the addition of schools in Wycombe-Oxford, the South West, Merseyside, Manchester and north and south London to create a national network. It provides a single national curriculum, teaching resources and assessment procedures in histopathology training.