South East London Pathology Services:

Hub FAQs

Frequently Answered Questions

We have compiled some FAQs below. We ask you to review these as they should answer your questions about the Hub.

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About the Hub Laboratory

Yes, it was built in 1989 but has been recently refurbished to a very high standard as office space. Plans are being developed to transform it from office space into a fit-for-purpose central pathology hub.

The building will be converted to create a modern, spacious work environment. It will include five floors of laboratories and clinical services covering blood sciences, tissue sciences and microbiology.

Around 25 million tests per year (96,000 a day) will be conducted in the core blood sciences lab alone, with approximately 36,000 blood tubes processed daily and one million microbiology tests performed annually.

There will also be clinical training rooms, training rooms for microscopy, spaces for community meetings, privacy areas, open-plan and shared office space, and senior leadership team offices.

Staff will benefit from:

  • Open areas with easy flow and navigation throughout
  • Privacy areas
  • Multiple soft seating areas
  • Café
  • Dining area with microwave and fridge storage
  • Vending services
  • Cold water stations (all floors)
  • Relaxation space with TV screen and IT hook-ups
  • Drying room for cyclists
  • Cycle storage
  • Shower facilities
  • Multi-faith room

Here is a summary of the distances from the hospital sites and Francis House (Viapath head office) to the hub:

LocationDistance by roadWalking timeBus journey time
Francis House0.8 miles15 mins11 mins
Guy’s Hospital0.9 miles15 mins11 mins
St. Thomas’ Hospital1.0 mile18 mins16 mins
King’s College Hospital3.1 miles57 mins34 mins
PRUH14 milesN/A44 mins (bus and train)
LocationJourney time (underground)Journey time (overground)
Francis House7-8 mins13 mins
Guy’s Hospital7-8 mins13 mins
St. Thomas’ Hospital15 minsN/A
King’s College Hospital43 mins27 mins
PRUH109 mins (including bus journeys)44 mins (bus and train)
*All journey times are approximate and taken from the TfL website. Please note that public transport is subject to change and various route options may exist.

To be completed by 2024, this laboratory will be at the heart of our plans to deliver and transform pathology services in South East London. It will become one of the largest, purpose-built pathology laboratories in the UK, capable of processing around 70 per cent of all pathology activity in the region.

It will be converted to create a modern, spacious work environment with open-plan and shared office space, clinical training rooms, training rooms for microscopy, spaces for community meetings and privacy areas. It will also have a staff café, vending services, a multi-faith room, cycle storage and showers, among other facilities.

As we seek to build on the strengths of today’s service provided by Viapath and the NHS, the hub and spoke model will work by separating out urgent from non-urgent tests to dramatically improve testing turnaround times and patient care. It will also free up valuable hospital estate to be used by the NHS for other patient services.

Click here to read more.

The hub will bring a wide range of benefits for both clinicians and patients. Its central location will enable us to deliver faster testing turnaround times, meaning quicker diagnoses and access to treatment for patients.

With modern, cutting-edge laboratories and new and improved equipment and facilities, it will be an inspirational place to work.

We will be freeing up valuable space in local hospitals, enabling the NHS to repurpose it for other patient service.

You can read more about the benefits of the new pathology partnership in our overview document.

The building has a net internal area of 103,400 square feet, spans eight floors and had an additional lower ground level

The building is currently designed as office space, therefore a significant amount of construction work will need to be undertaken in order to convert it into a state-of-the-art hub laboratory. Scientists and clinicians will be engaged in development as far as possible so that Friars Bridge Court can deliver the needs of the partnership in the short, medium and long-term.

We will be working closely with a mechanical and electrical consultant, structural engineer and architects to draw up new plans for where the different services will be located, as well as develop designs on the look and feel of the interior spaces.

Yes – the building will be developed with COVID19 guidelines in mind, as we are committed to making it a safe place for people to work. We will ensure that there is plenty of space in all areas to enable people to socially distance.

Over the coming months proposals will continue to be developed regarding which employee groups will move to the new hub laboratory. A consultation will take place with all those potentially affected, and more information will be shared when it is available. Current plans are for the new hub to be fully operational by 2025. Work started on converting the building at the back end of 2021, with automation equipment expected to be installed in late 2022.

The design principles that have been considered at every stage of the decision making are:

  • Co-create with colleagues to ensure the needs of everyone are met
  • Create a flexible working environment which supports both different ways of working and uses of the space
  • Ensure a hot-desking environment with a digital booking system can be operated
  • Enable greener practices where possible – e.g. electric vans or bicycles to transport samples and a reduction in plastic bags for transporting samples
  • Use of digital solutions to enhance collaboration, communication and connection across colleagues and teams
  • All floors, excluding floors 2 and 3, to have a plug ‘n’ play approach to allow for flexibility in changing the space layout as required

The new central pathology hub will be located at Friars Bridge Court, 41 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NZ. The building is situated at the northern end of Blackfriars Road in Southwark with sweeping views across London and the Thames.
It is close to the Roupell Street and Waterloo conservation areas.

The new hub is served by a range of public transport options:
By bus:
Stamford Street – 1 min walk/0.05 miles
Southwark Station – 1 min walk/0.06 miles
Southwark Street / Blackfriars Road – 2 min walk/0.11 miles

By train:
Waterloo East – 3 min walk/0.16 miles
London Blackfriars – 7 min walk/0.36 miles
London Waterloo – 7 min walk/0.38 miles

By tube:
Southwark – 2 min walk/0.09 miles
Waterloo – 8 min walk/0.42 miles
Blackfriars – 8 min walk/0.43 miles

Location Maps

There is a wide range of food and leisure facilities within walking distance of the new hub laboratory, including gyms, supermarkets, coffee shops, hotels, theatres, galleries, restaurants and bars.

The building was chosen following an extensive review of potentially suitable sites across central London.

Friars Bridge Court was identified as the optimal location when considering distance from the various NHS organisations it will serve, as well as the excellent public transport links that surround it.

Another major consideration was the building’s size, layout and infrastructure, which will enable it to be converted to meet the partnership’s future needs. These needs include weight-bearing floors capable of hosting a multitude of specialist laboratory equipment.

As the pathology hub becomes established, we expect to create additional roles requiring specialist training and skills.

We are currently recruiting to a number of roles as part of the Transition and Transformation programme. All roles will be developed in line with the needs of the programme, and the number and types of role will fluctuate throughout the duration of the project. Anyone interested in current vacancies can find more information on the SYNLAB website careers page:

The hub will operate a laboratory service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Peak activity will occur between the hours of 9am and 6pm from Monday to Friday.

While the most urgent testing takes place at hospital sites, a smaller team of staff (less than 10%) will be working at the hub laboratory outside of core hours to provide specialist testing and expertise to support emergency care.

Limited deliveries would be made to the hub outside of core working hours and the very small number of urgent test samples would be delivered using small hybrid or electric vehicles.

Security will be taken extremely seriously. Employees will be required to carry their identity cards with them. There will be clearly defined areas where staff and visitors can and cannot access.

The hub will be protected by appropriate security measures including CCTV, biometric scanning and swipe card entry systems. Security staff will be present, alongside a front-of-house team in reception, at all times.

There will be one main sample reception where all samples will be booked into the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). Each floor will have its own sample receipt and sorting point, where additional tests can be added depending on clinical details.

Our design principles for the hub are around creating flexible working spaces, which will mean hot desking for all staff with no designated office space. Sufficient desk space will be provided for those required to be working at the hub at any given time, in an open collaborative working space. On some floors there will also be sound-proof booths and meeting rooms to allow for private and confidential conversations to take place. It is anticipated that bookings will be made via an online system.

Current plans are for the new hub to be fully operational in 2024. We expect work to start on converting the building later on in 2021. We will continue to share more detailed information as it becomes available.

No – staff and visitors will be encouraged to use public transport to travel to Friars Bridge Court. It benefits from excellent transport links across London and beyond.

Working with our NHS partners, SYNLAB is committed to minimising disruption and inconvenience, and to being a positive presence within our hub locality and improving the lives of people living in South East London.

Friars Bridge Court is a modern structure that meets all standard building regulations, including environmental and sustainability criteria. It will use 100% renewable energy from purely sustainable resources.

We will be looking at ways in which we can be as environmentally friendly as possible in terms of our operations and processes. This includes:

  • Our logistics partner using electric-powered vehicles and cycles to transport samples. These will meet at one of three designated exchange points away from the hub to transfer all collected samples into one vehicle for hub delivery.
  • Reducing the number of pick-up and drop-off journeys at the hub site from around 140 a day to around 30 a day (based on average workflow), as well as reducing the environmental impact from traffic and noise.
  • Inbound deliveries of consumables and supplies during core hours being made to the rear of the building. The hub site will not need any deliveries requiring articulated lorry transportation.
  • The majority of plant and equipment providing air conditioning, heating or refrigeration will be located on the roof area to maximise lab space and reduce noise. Where localised plant is necessary, it will be sized and scaled appropriately to the space – all accommodated in line with the approved development.

No. USS colleagues will remain working in laboratories on site at King’s College Hospital. 

SYNLAB and other pathology providers have demonstrated that the hub-and-spoke network model results in faster testing turnaround times overall, which is why NHS networks across the country are adopting this approach. SYNLAB already has a proven track record of supporting GPs and other healthcare providers at distance, yet still improve testing turnaround times. Where necessary, Essential Service Laboratories can be used to stabilise samples locally before sending them for testing.

About the Partnership

Following the creation of the SYNLAB/NHS partnership on 1 April 2021, ‘Viapath’ as an organisation is not the same as Viapath before 1 April. The legal entity known as ‘Viapath’ remains and continues to employ the same skilled pathology workforce, but the structure and accountability of the organisation are very different.

Responsibility for the performance and delivery of Viapath pathology services now rests with SYNLAB and Viapath governance structures have been aligned accordingly. Mark Dollar, CEO of SYNLAB UK & Ireland becomes the accountable officer for Viapath, and there is a new Chief Operating Officer in post, Tracy Ellison.

SYNLAB takes on board the services as they are today and, over the next three years, will transform them into a new hub and spoke pathology network. SYNLAB will draw on its expertise and experience in transforming pathology services across the globe and will lead the organisation in doing so, working with our NHS partners and the many excellent scientists and other colleagues who have been involved in delivering the Viapath service to date.

Once SYNLAB was confirmed as the successful bidder following conclusion of the procurement process, two options were discussed as to how the new joint venture might be set up: 1) Set up a wholly new organisation/legal entity; and 2) change the ownership structure of the existing legal entity, which at this point was owned solely by the two NHS Foundation Trust partners.

Cosmetically they might appear very different, but the way the joint venture worked would essentially be the same. Option 2 would have minimal impact on staff, whereas the creation of a new organisation would have seen all Viapath staff needing to transfer across to the new legal entity. The resulting personal and administrative disruption to 1,300 staff would have had no balancing benefit; and the NHS and SYNLAB would still have needed to value the assets within the Viapath organisation and then have contributed their share into the new legal entity they created together. Ensuring ongoing stability of pathology services was the primary objective – particularly given the vital role played in the ongoing pandemic response – which is why option 2 was chosen.

In order to establish the partnership under option 2, SYNLAB needed to ‘buy-into’ the Viapath legal entity. The sum paid directly reflects SYNLAB’s share of the value of various assets such as pathology analysers and equipment, technology software and infrastructure. In addition, SYNLAB will invest millions into building state-of-the art laboratories, a new consolidated laboratory IT system and cutting-edge equipment which will continue to benefit NHS patients and clinicians well into the future.

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What if I have more questions about the hub?

Comments and questions are welcome at any time – please either use the contact form or email us at [email protected]

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