• Tendered contract would cover Princess Alexandra Hospital, West Hertfordshire Hospitals, and East and North Hertfordshire trusts
  • Move forms part of NHS Improvement national initiative

Three trusts’ pathology services look likely to be outsourced in an STP-wide procurement process.

A tender notice for a new service provider, published this month, would award a contract for all pathology disciplines currently serviced by Princess Alexandra Hospital, West Hertfordshire Hospitals, and East and North Hertfordshire trusts.

Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust will host a market engagement day later in April for organisations to provide feedback on the procurement, which will then determine the number of lots created.

A PAHT spokeswoman said the combining and outsourcing of local pathology services formed part of the national programme initiated by NHS Improvement.

In 2017, NHSI instructed trusts to join up their pathology services into 29 networks, in line with a Carter review recommendation.

The regulator asked trusts to develop plans to deliver their share of the £200m targeted savings by 2021, via networking, or if necessary, outsourcing.

Some trusts have rejected outsourcing, instead linking up with other trusts outside their immediate area to form in-house pathology networks.

The tender notice said the trusts and their commissioners are “looking to award contracts for the provision of pathology services under a target operating model that is compliant with the guidelines from NHS Improvement”.

The services included are: blood sciences; phlebotomy; microbiology; histopathology; molecular pathology; specialist testing and send aways; laboratory facilities; single IT LIMS; logistics; and support facilities.

A West Herts HT spokeswoman said staff transferred to a new provider would retain their Agenda for Change terms and conditions.

Separately, pathology staff at WHHT are threatening industrial action in opposition to planned pay cuts later this year.

According to the Unite trade union, all their members who are pathology employees of the trust voted in support of considering “to take industrial action” over the trust’s decision to standardise their out-of-hours pay.

Members will reconvene next month to form a strategy, which “could include the option for strike action”.

In the move, national Agenda for Change pay scales will replace existing locally negotiated rates for out-of-hours pay. By adopting the new system, director of human resources for the trust Paul de Gama says the trust aims to “harmonise pay [across their staff] doing similar roles”.

He said the changes will “bring the organisation into line with the vast majority of trusts who harmonised pay rates many years ago.”

Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge said: “Privatisation is detrimental to patient services and the dedicated NHS workforce which has to bear the brunt of cuts to staff, pay, and terms and conditions.”