Leyland is top choice for new Lancashire pathology hub

Leyland has been identified as the new preferred location for a proposed pathology centre serving the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 9:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 10:51 am

If formally approved, the unit would be based on the Lancashire Business Park.

Plans for a single facility to carry out non-urgent, hospital outpatient and GP blood tests were first mooted three years ago – with a site at Lancaster University previously having been earmarked for the purpose.

The location – and the concept – proved controversial, with union representatives raising concerns over the accessibility of the proposed base.

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Urgent blood tests would still be analysed at hospital sites under the plans - but routine work would be carried out at a base in Leyland

As the Lancashire Post revealed last year, the development was due to be completed in 2021, but the timetable was put back by three years pending a delayed decision on funding for the £31m project.

The Health Service Journal reports that a fresh assessment of the best place for the super-lab has now seen Leyland come out on top – with consultants PWC describing as “crude” the selection process which had initially seen Lancaster identified as the most suitable location.

The LDRS understands that an outline business case will now be compiled, which will have to be approved by March 2021 by the boards of all four Lancashire hospital trusts involved in the proposed collaboration before a pitch can be made to NHS England for the finance.

Under the so-called “hub and spoke” model, each hospital in the region would retain its existing pathology capacity for samples requiring urgent processing.

However, the Unite union has once again criticised the plans – and the £1.2m which it has found via a freedom of information was spent on the project between 2016 and 2019, the vast majority being staffing costs.

“I’d love to hear how they think they have spent this money wisely – because they have achieved nothing so far,” said regional organiser Keith Hutson.

“And if you were going to do this at all, you would base it at an existing hospital site and have it near to at least one of the major population centres.

“So choosing Leyland defies all logic – it’s equally inconvenient for everybody.

“The only reason would be if you were intending to privatise this part of the operation.”

However, a spokesperson for the pathology collaboration dismissed the union’s claims, stating that there was a “commitment to ensure all staff will be employed in the NHS” – and that the aim was to continue providing a high quality pathology service in a purpose-built environment.

They added that Leyland had been chosen “based on a set of evaluation criteria in a robust and transparent process” – and that any hub had to be close to key routes such as motorways.

Mark Hindle, managing director for the project, also said: “Transforming pathology services across Lancashire and South Cumbria is an exciting opportunity for our area, working in partnership with NHS trusts, to ensure that our pathology services remain at the forefront of diagnostics to the benefit of all staff, clinicians and patients.

“The collaboration are developing models for pathology services and one of these is to develop a new pathology hub, however it is important that each hospital site will continue to have emergency pathology services within the hospital site.”

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