• Lord Carter recommends trusts unable to hit new pathology benchmarks be ordered to consolidate or outsource by January 2017
  • Reckons there are £250m in savings to be found in pathology
  • His earlier report on pathology, commissioned in 2005, put the sum at £250m-£500m

Trusts that cannot achieve new benchmarks for pathology will have to agree by next January to outsourcing or sharing services with other providers, Lord Carter is expected to recommend.

The peer, appointed last year to lead a review of hospital efficiency, is to urge the government to set tough deadlines for organisations to either hit new standards or give up control of their pathology services.

The recommendation is in a draft copy of his as yet unpublished report to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, HSJ understands.

The Labour peer believes the NHS can save £250m on the annual costs of pathology, thought to be £2.5bn-£3bn a year.

But the estimates have been bedevilled by poor information, much as previous reviews of pathology have been.

Lord Carter was first asked to review NHS pathology services in 2005, and his work then estimated there was £250m-£500m in potential savings.

Data for the new draft report came from a cohort of 32 trusts.

HSJ understands the recommendation is that trusts will have to sign up to a pathology quality assurance dashboard by July this year, with the Health and Social Care Information Centre publishing standardised definitions of NHS pathology tests in October.

From April 2017 trusts would then be required to use these definitions and to hit benchmarks set by NHS Improvement.

Lord Carter’s report is expected to say that consolidated pathology organisations were the most efficient seen by the review team, citing examples in Warwickshire, the North West and across Surrey and Berkshire.

It is to call on NHS Improvement to publish guidance for forming pathology joint ventures by October 2016.

HSJ understands the team hopes to make similar recommendations for diagnostic imaging services.

The team aims to work with 32 trusts, a royal college and other professional societies to introduce benchmarks for radiology that trusts would achieve by April 2018.

It is understood that a draft of the Carter report is currently being finalised.