Blood tests hub on way?

TWO-THIRDS of Eastbourne hospital’s pathology tests, such as blood samples, could be transferred to a central laboratory as a cost-cutting measure.

The in-house lab at Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH), which carries out almost three million pathological tests a year, could bee replaced by a central hub.

The DGH lab would retain a skeleton staff of 30 to 35 people to carry out emergency tests for cases, such as blood transfusions, requiring results in less than four hours.

A spokesperson for the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust (ESHT), which oversees the running of the DGH, said, “The NHS is facing a highly challenging period over the coming years.

“While we will continue to put quality and patient experience at the heart of everything we do, we also need to focus on delivering efficiency across all the services we provide to ensure they are financially sustainable in the longer term.”

Three hospital trusts across the county have been forced to consider this option ‘against a backdrop of local and national financial pressures’, according to a discussion paper on the Sussex Pathology Network Options acquired by the Herald. A central hub could streamline costs.

A steering committee, made up of representatives from the ESHT, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and Western Sussex Hospitals elected to put this option to the trusts’ boards for adoption and approval on December 2.

It decided against keeping the pathology network as it is or privatising the entire operation.

All major hospitals in Sussex have on-site laboratories, taking up 11,000 square metres of hospital floor space. While the committee is considering this existing space for the central hub, it is also investigating new locations.

Last year 700 staff dealt with 19 million tests on immune systems, micro-organisms, viruses and blood tests at a cost of £55m - 5.5 per cent of the overall running costs of the three trusts.

A spokesperson for the ESHT added, “Pathology is a clinical support service and these changes will not impact on the front-line services our patients receive.”

A decision to adopt or reject the proposal will be taken on December 20.