Plans to create a new pathology centre serving the whole of Lancashire will end the practice of the same blood test results being interpreted differently in different parts of the county.
The current anomaly emerged at the latest meeting of a group of healthcare commissioners overseeing proposals to transform NHS services in the area.
Outlining the suggested benefits of analysing all non-urgent samples at a single site, Jean Wright, Project Director for the Pathology Collaboration Project, said: “If a patient is in Blackburn, they might be within normal range [for a given blood test], but if they’re in Preston, they might be outside it.
“We don’t want different reference ranges across the patch – it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t deliver a good service,” she told the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG).
Lancaster University was revealed late last year as the preferred location for a new pathology hub which would test all non-emergency outpatient samples from across Lancashire and South Cumbria.
Urgent tests and those for inpatients would continue to be carried out at seven hospital sites in the region - Blackpool Victoria, Blackburn Hospital, Burnley General, Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, Furness General, theRoyal Lancaster Infirmary and the Royal Preston Hospital.
The meeting heard concerns from one member about how samples travelling from the furthest parts of the county would be kept fresh. Jean Wright toldSumantra Mukerji, Chair of Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group, that the collaboration was investigating the use of temperature controlled boxes and vans to ensure “specimen integrity”.
Members were advised the plans could save Â£11m per year - representing up to 15 percent of current spending on pathology across the four NHS trusts involved – and either free-up space for other services at individual hospitals or reduce overheads.
Dr. Amanda Doyle, the Integrated Care System Lead for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, added that the planned location, at the forthcoming health innovation campus in Lancaster, would mean the service was “not cut off from research”.
The new pathology centre, which will remain in the public sector, is due to open in 2021. A Â£31m grant to build the new facility - and redevelop suitable urgent testing sites at individual hospitals - has already been approved by NHS England.
Health bosses are currently updating a strategic outline case for consideration by NHS Improvement, after East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust decided to join the project at a later stage than its neighbours.