Pathology providers key to NHS reform


Summary of an address by Richard Jones, CEO of Viapath at the HSJ Pathology Conference

London, 18 November 2014: Pathology modernisation and the vital role that pathology providers could play in NHS reform, as set out in the published Carter Review of Pathology in 2008 and the NHS Five-Year Forward View, provided the focus for a defining speech made by Richard Jones, CEO of Viapath, at the HSJ Pathology Conference which took place on 18th November 2014.

Supporting the theme “exploring the pressures for providers and commissioners in pathology”, Richard Jones was chosen as one of the key panellists for the conference, to discuss the topic ‘Modernising NHS pathology – lessons and observations of a public-private joint venture’ on behalf of Viapath’ joining several other speakers including keynote speaker, Lord Carter of Coles.

Three themes were covered in the 15 minute speech given by Richard Jones, which included

  • 1. An analysis of Carter and why so little progress has occurred.
  • 2. Lessons learnt from GSTS-Viapath – benefits and opportunities for the future
  • 3. Reaffirming the case for change and the role of a mixed economy.

An analysis of Carter and why so little progress has occurred

In his first point, in offering an analysis of pathology modernisation since the Carter Reports of 2006 and 2008, the pertinent question of why so few of Carter’s recommendations had been delivered was addressed.

In summary, Carter’s three main recommendations proposed that, firstly, pathology providers should consolidate their capacity into managed pathology networks which would be clinically-led; Secondly, that NHS commissioners should provide a contracting framework to incentivise this transformation by rewarding providers who could deliver improved outcomes in terms of both quality and efficiency and, thirdly, that the DH and the NHS Operating Framework should set out a national specification or plan for pathology and the regulation of the market.

However, scant progress had been made on meeting these recommendations and in summing up some of the reasons for this, which included the effects of the Lansley NHS reorganisation, cost savings and the failure of the transformation process itself, Richard concluded that the need for pathology modernisation was still valid, but its implementation needs to be driven by the patient benefits of innovation in diagnostics. The case for change needs to be led by NHS clinicians and scientists forming effective coalitions with enlightened providers and commissioners. Put simply, to succeed in pathology modernisation, NHS professionals, providers and commissioners need to think like patients and act like taxpayers!

Lessons learnt from GSTS-Viapath – benefits and opportunities for the future

In his second point, covering the ‘Lessons learnt from GSTS-Viapath – benefits and opportunities for the future’, Richard offered the audience a brief introduction of Viapath focusing on the key factors that would support a wider application for providers and commissioners of NHS pathology services. These key factors included:

  • a) The raft of customer savings made for the NHS enabling Viapath to invest increasing sums in modernising its laboratories and the capabilities of its workforce, this year amounting to seven million alone
  • b) The widespread improvements in quality even with a reduction in cost base by more than £10 million per annum on an income of less than £100 million, this despite shareholders initially being sceptical about Viapath’s focus on the bottom line
  • c) The substantial benefits created from investment in innovation, including specialist laboratory services such as the 100k Genome Project, which has enabled Viapath to scale up its specialist capability and respond to NHS England’s strategy of creating global leadership for the NHS in genomic and molecular diagnostics.
  • d) Viapath’s goal to fully engage its clinicians and scientists in the change process and equip leaders with better change management capability, while building loyalty and customer service across the entire Viapath network beyond purely local loyalty to the individual hospital services
  • e) Finally, while market mechanisms to enable the formation of Pathology Networks are still in their infancy, the NHSE focus on the 100K Genome Procurement was demonstrating focus and energy.

Reaffirming the case for change and the role of a mixed economy.

In Richard’s concluding point, ‘Reaffirming the case for change and the role of a mixed economy’, the emphasis on pathology professionals, working in partnership with enlightened providers and commissioners to make ‘change’ happen, was loud and clear as was the need to rise to the challenge set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View. In highlighting the importance of patient benefit rather than economics alone, Richard also pointed out that NHS clinicians and scientists need to be at the centre of the transformation of NHS pathology.

The vital role of Viapath was also clear, summed up by Richard, who said, “I believe Viapath demonstrates that an innovative public-private partnership model can work and is a source of funding and change leadership available to the NHS. The independent sector has an important role to play in partnership with the NHS.”

About the HSJ Pathology Seminar

The HSJ Annual Pathology Seminar was the third Conference of the series, held to share critical insights on meeting the challenges faced by commissioners of pathology services.

Taking place in central London on 18 November the event, in association with Roche, explored the pressures affecting providers and commissioners in pathology, as well as discussing future courses of action.

Sessions included discussions on how pathology services can be commissioned in a smarter way; how competition works in this market and its impact; how the Transforming Pathology Partnership has progressed, with practical guidance on improvement areas; and the most effective strategies for implementing personalised healthcare.

Chair of the Conference was Alistair Mc Lellan, Editor of HSJ while additional speakers were:

Keynote Speaker: Lord Carter of Coles

Pierre Hazlewood, Director of Point of Care, Roche UK & Republic of Ireland

Sheldon Mills, Senior Director of Mergers, Competition and Markets Authority

Francisco Munoz, Business Development Director, Integrated Pathology Partnerships

Jan Ledward, Chief Officer, NHS Greater Preston CCG and NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG

Martin Myers, Clinical Biochemist, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Paul Skingley, Director of Hospital In-Vitro Diagnostics Roche

Dr Manu Vatish, Senior Clinical Fellow & Consultant in Obstetrics and Miriam Willmott-Powell, NIHR Portfolio Research Midwife, University of Oxford & John Radcliffe Hospital

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