• NHS Improvement in discussion with two trusts over pathology reconfiguration 
  • East Sussex Healthcare Trust and Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust yet to agree plans with the regulator
  • Specialist paediatric trusts agree to form network
  • Test list drawn up with aim of developing tariff price for pathology 

Two acute trusts are yet to agree to join pathology networks proposed 10 months ago by NHS Improvement under plans to save £200m by 2021.

Separate proposals drawn up by East Sussex Healthcare Trust and Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust have been rejected by the regulator, which wants every acute trust in the country to be part of a network.

Eighty per cent of trusts have agreed to NHSI’s networking model, according to minutes from an NHSI committee meeting in May, obtained by HSJ through a Freedom of Information request.

The remaining trusts, apart from East Sussex and Epsom and St Helier, are either working on “acceptable alternatives” or undertaking procurement, which will determine their final network.

In February, HSJ reported that 12 of 29 NHSI designed networks had secured agreement from each member trust.

Networking trusts’ pathology services has long been recognised as a way of delivering efficiency savings.

The minutes reveal East Sussex Healthcare Trust had “failed to engage” in the programme.

A spokesman told HSJ the trust is “developing proposals” in partnership with the London four network, which comprises Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital FT, and Lewisham and Greenwich Trust.

This network is provided by Viapath, a joint venture between Guy’s, King’s and Serco.

However, NHSI said the plan is “not at the scale we would wish to see to enable the efficiencies to be realised for this healthcare economy”.

NHSI placed the trust into the South seven network, which also comprises Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, and Western Sussex Hospitals FT.

The trust said it was willing to discuss mutual advantages with the South seven network.

Meanwhile, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust has not agreed to join the London five network, which comprises Croydon Health Services Trust, Kingston Hospital FT, and St George’s University Hospitals FT.

A spokeswoman said the trust is working with “several partners” to agree a “modern approach” for the long term provision of pathology.

NHSI is working with both trusts to identify a solution.

Since being announced for acute trusts in September, the programme has now been expanded to include the 18 specialist trusts in England.

NHSI said the four specialist paediatric providers (Alder Hey Children’s FT, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s FT, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children FT, and Sheffield Children’s FT) have “agreed a way forward”.

The quartet will talk to other trusts that provide similar services to develop an approach to networking. 

Commenting on the progress of the acute and specialist trusts, Jeremy Marlow, NHSI’s head of operational productivity, said “positive feedback” had been received from trusts, which are “eager to start forming their networks”.

He said NHSI has provided support and guidance, including workshops, to help finalise agreements and move towards a “more modern, joined up approach”.

The NHS will be updated “soon” on the next steps for delivering the networks.

Alongside the network workstream, NHSI is also working on a “test list” to provide the acute sector with a single defined list of tests and test names to allow “systems to harmonise electronic communication”.

It is hoped this will allow for the development of a tariff price for pathology in the long term.