NHS Midlands and East has announced the successful bidders in a tender for pathology services across the East of England, as part of a long-awaited reconfiguration intended to cut the region’s lab bill by up to £29m.

There were five “bidding organisations” in the contest, which between them represented all 17 hospital trusts in the East of England. The strategic health authority cluster has announced four successful preferred providers.

Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was the only “stand alone” bid to be approved, with the other three successful bids all coming from consortia of trusts.

The three successful consortium bids were Consolidated Pathology Services; Eastern Pathology Alliance and Transforming Pathology Partnerships.

A bid by Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust was unsuccessful.  

The preferred bidders

Consortium: Consolidated Pathology Services
Comprised of:
Luton & Dunstable FT, Bedford Hospital Trust. Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust
Area responsible for: Basildon; Thurrock; West Essex; Herts Valley; East & North Herts; Southend; Bedfordshire; Luton

Consortium: Eastern Pathology Alliance
Comprised of:
James Paget University Hospitals FT; Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn FT; Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals FT
Will be responsible for: South Norfolk; Norwich; West Norfolk; North Norfolk, Great Yarmouth & Waveney

Consortium: Transforming Pathology Partnerships
Comprised of:
Cambridge University Hospitals FT, Colchester Hospital University FT, East & North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust, Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust, West Suffolk FT
Will be responsible for: Cambridgeshire; W Suffolk; E Suffolk; NE Essex; Mid Essex

Stand alone: Peterborough & Stamford Hospitals FT
Will be responsible for:
Peterborough; Wisbech

It remains unclear how many labs will remain under the new set-up and what services they will continue to carry out. HSJ has sought further details from the strategic health authority.

But the SHA has estimated the new arrangement could cut the region’s estimated annual £216m lab bill by up to £29m.

This figure is based on savings targets outlined in the Carter Review, a national review of pathology services published in 2008. 

Bidders are set to begin discussions with their respective clinical commissioning groups to finalise commissioning requirements by 31 March 2013.

The SHA said the improvements resulting from the shake-up would include longer opening hours to better meet the needs of clinicians and patients; electronic tracking of samples; and a rigorous monthly reporting regime supported by a dedicated pathology contract providing service-specific performance management.

An SHA statement added: “Minimising of test variability will improve patient safety and clinical outcomes, and improved IT connectivity will ensure efficient electronic reporting of results. In the new contracts, it will be mandated that services meet Clinical Pathology Accreditation and Care Quality Commission accreditation standards.

“Over 70 per cent of visits to the GP result in one or more test requests, and hospitals in the East of England currently perform around 40 million of these ‘cold’ tests, which do not require a four hour turnaround, annually costing over £85m.”

Dr Paul Husselbee, co-chair of the project board, said: “Patients can be reassured that their GPs will still be able to order tests, as they do now.

“Similarly, patients in hospital who need the faster “hot tests‟, which are processed within four hours, will still have their tests conducted on site to aid a speedy diagnosis.

“The valuable reports that are generated from these tests will be available electronically for immediate access by GPs so as to avoid duplication and reduce the amount of time that patients have to wait for their results.

“GPs will also benefit from easy access to consultant advice whenever required.”