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GP concern over centralisation plans for pathology services

GPs have raised concerns over moves to create a pathology services ‘hub' across central England, saying it will harm communication with colleagues over abnormal test results.

A PCT cluster in East and West Midlands plans to make the change to release 20% savings in pathology services, with a new electronic system to order tests and receive results.

Pulse revealed this month that the Government was urging PCTs to make efficiency savings in pathology services, and benchmark GP use of tests.

A review of pathology services by Lord Carter in 2006 found they should be ‘streamlined' and set up as independent networks from hospitals.

NHS East and Midlands are producing an online business case, to be completed by July this year, to bring together services and save 20% on the cost of pathology services.

However, Dr Tim Horsburgh, medical secretary of Dudley LMC, said local GPs were concerned over the change.

He said: ‘The concerns from the local GP community is that if a majority of the pathology processing is going to happen in a "hub" somewhere distant from here, if we have an abnormal result, how do we communicate effectively with our colleagues in pathology about whether it is a spurious sample result, etc,' he said.

‘It is communication we are worried about – it is not the physical processing of the samples that is the problem. If clinicians are off site, we don't really know who we are talking to.'

NHS London is also planning to reconfigure its pathology services, including plans for GPs to send all results with their referral to prevent duplication.

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