A “results only” pathology service could lead to a “dumbing down” of the workforce and inappropriate diagnostic testing, the national clinical director for pathology has warned.

Ian Barnes told HSJ that if financial pressures led to speed being prioritised over quality of pathology services, there would be consequences for innovation and future cost savings.

If we dumb down and become a results only service we won’t be able to ensure appropriate testing

“If we dumb down and become a results only service we won’t be able to ensure appropriate testing, we won’t have the skill base to provide proper advice or introduce new technologies, and we won’t be able to introduce new tests which could reduce cost in other areas,” he said.

Any reconfiguration of pathology services and improving quality must be done in an “integrated way”, tailored towards patient needs, he added.

Dr Barnes said understanding and interpreting diagnostic tests, such as those to detect cancer, requires a highly skilled workforce.

“Understanding what your test is producing and what it means in relation to the pathology of the patient is absolutely critical. Interpreting this data correctly is extremely important to ensure quality and you need the expertise to do this.”

  • Dr Barnes is speaking at HSJ’s Modernising Pathology conference on March 24-25 in London. Details at www.hsj-pathology.com