Headlines: February 18th, 2004

Plans have been revealed for the modernisation of pathology services within the NHS. Key elements include ensuring that services focus on patients’ needs, and the importance of keeping services up to date through new, appropriate and properly evaluated technologies, techniques and tests.Up to 70 per cent of all diagnoses depend on pathology but health minister, John Hutton, said the services were often invisible to the patients they served. The modernisation proposals would help to both raise the profile of pathology and increase the effectiveness of the services. The proposals include the development of new pathology networks and changes in the skill mix of the workforce.

The implementation of ‘Modernising Pathology Services’ will be supported by a total of 9.1 million pounds revenue and 54 million pounds capital funding over the period to 2005 -06. The Department of Health will also set up an implementation oversight group as one of the measures to increase diagnostic capacity in the NHS. It will also look at how service design, particularly through the development of managed networks, can help build pathology capacity.

The national implementation oversight group will succeed the Pathology Modernisation Steering Group. Its key functions will include, advising the Department of Health on using funding, supporting the sharing of good practice across the NHS, networking with the Modernisation Agency and other stakeholders to redesign pathology services and working with the diagnostics industry to support the uptake of new technology. Membership of the new body will be announced in the near future.