Blood changes risk to patients

PATIENTS’ safety would be at serious risk if proposed cost-cutting changes to the county’s system of diagnosing disease go ahead, according to hospital staff.

The East Sussex Hospital NHS Trust’s (ESHT) microbiology team, which works in Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) and the Conquest Hospital at Hastings, says consultancy firm KPMG’s recommendation to centralise the majority of three Sussex trusts’ pathology tests, such as blood tests, is inefficient, costly and poorly researched.

It says the move is at the expense of any provision for the sometimes urgent identification of diseases such as meningitis.

A letter from the microbiology team reads, “We believe this decision, if implemented, will bring about a considerable impact upon the delivery and quality of pathology services, with some inevitable and serious repercussions of patient safety.”

KPMG proposed the DGH outsource two-thirds of its three million tests a year - all of which are classed as ‘non-urgent’ - to a centralised hub and retain a skeleton staff to carry out emergency tests such as blood transfusions in its own in-house laboratory.

But clinicians say there has been ‘insufficient consultation’ with relevant medical staff.

They also questioned waiting time for processing patient specimens owing to transportation issues which could lead to a spread of infection within hospitals.

Finally they pointed to the expense of new equipment and computer systems for setting up a new central pathlab.

Bill Penn, a senior biomedical scientist, said, “I have been in microbiology for more than 30 years and this proposal will have the potential to increase preventable infections.”

A spokesperson for the ESHT said, “There is drive to ensure we put quality and patient experience at the heart of everything we do while at the same time becoming more efficient and ensuring value for money.

“We recognise the scale of the change is potentially significant and it is understandable concerns are raised and staff are anxious.”

The microbiology team asked for the proposal to be shelved until more thorough investigations have been made.

A firm decision will be made in January.