On April 1, 2021, Guy’s and St Thomas’, and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts formed a partnership with SYNLAB UK & Ireland to deliver and transform pathology services across South East London. The partnership’s vision is to co-develop a world-leading, integrated pathology network which supports high-quality patient care for residents of South East London and beyond. The new partnership will provide diagnostics, testing and digital pathology services for hospitals, GPs, and other NHS healthcare providers across South East London. The service is clinically led, with the needs of patients and service users at its heart.
The partnership aims to bring about a number of benefits for health services and patients in South East London, including:
- Improved quality of patient care and experience. One example is the fast-tracking of urgent GP requests which will enable more conditions to be managed within the community, helping to prevent unnecessary hospital attendances and admissions.
- Digitally innovative – IT systems will link laboratories with referral sites, providing easier and faster access to testing services and results by clinicians in hospitals as well as in the community. The aim is that clinicians will be able to manage a patient’s care more effectively across primary, community and acute healthcare services to bring improvements long-term.
- Enhanced experience with better access for primary care clinicians. Local healthcare services will benefit from improvements in consistency, reliability and flexibility of pathology testing services, including collection arrangements, and electronic ordering and reporting.
- Access to international research and development, as well as scientific and clinical expertise within specialist laboratories and hospitals across Europe, shared learning and best practice.
- Investing for the future: Investment will provide the NHS with state-of-the-art laboratories, purpose built to meet the needs of modern-day healthcare services. There will also be investment in the latest technology and equipment, providing access to a wider repertoire of tests and testing capability.
- Performance management: New, integrated IT systems will automatically populate performance management dashboards, resulting in improved monitoring against Key Performance Indicators.
Primary and community care services in Bromley, Southwark and Lambeth remained with Synnovis as ownership of the organisation passed to the new NHS and SYNLAB partnership on April 1, 2021. There were no immediate changes for GPs, and no initial requirement for them to do anything differently as a result of the new partnership. Services continued to operate as they did before April 1 2021 for GPs and patients (requesting, getting tests, receiving results). Any future changes will be communicated in a timely way and there will be the opportunity for general practices to give their input.
Pathology services provided to GP practices in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham transferred from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust to the SYNLAB and NHS pathology partnership on 12 November. A comprehensive project plan endeavoured to provide GPs, practice managers, practice nurses and all other healthcare colleagues with the resources required to help ensure a smooth, safe and seamless transfer. The transfer is part of a wider programme to transform pathology services across the region.
In 2024 the provision of services for all six boroughs will transfer to a new permanent central pathology hub laboratory, which will be located at Friars Bridge Court, 41 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NZ. This building is at the heart of 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, and will be processing around 70 per cent of all pathology activity in the region.
We welcome views from all those interested in pathology services provided by the new partnership. The programme has two primary care clinical leads and a CCG lead who ensure the GP voice is heard in the partnership. They are:
- Dr Ruth Tinson, a GP in Bromley, is representing general practice in Bromley, Lambeth and Southwark and can be contacted at [email protected]
- Dr Cheryl Leung, a GP in Bexley, represents general practice in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham and can be contacted at [email protected]
- Vanda Clarke, Head of the Pathology Programme, is the lead for the primary and community care element of the partnership and can be contacted at [email protected]
The South East London pathology programme does not include radiology and X-rays.
This is one of the key elements of the transformation plan and includes services provided to GPs and other healthcare colleagues across Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham. As the programme develops, we will be able to provide more information.
Due to the short timeframe necessary to guarantee the integrity of samples, there will not be a provision for a post-vasectomy postal semen testing service for GPs. Synnovis provides a UKAS-accredited andrology service that requires post-vasectomy semen specimens to be hand-delivered to the andrology laboratory located at Guy’s and St Thomas’ within one hour of production, to facilitate an adequate report. Therefore patients requiring this service will need to arrange an appointment to produce a sample on-site.
Our aim is to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place throughout the six boroughs of South East London to enable all tests to be requested electronically. However, a back-up paper system will be needed to support a continuation of services in the unlikely event of a systems issue. Paper request forms are also needed for clinical staff who do not have remote access to the tQuest system. An efficiency review is being undertaken to understand how the use of paper can be reduced. SYNLAB is committed to ensuring a sustainable future, reducing its environmental impact and working with partners to further this work across the services it provides.
How is the South East London Pathology Partnership different to another partnership I have heard of, the East and South East London Pathology Partnership?
The NHS East and South East London Pathology Partnership (ESEL) is a new organisation, jointly owned by Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. This new partnership came into effect on May 1, 2021. Both the NHS East and South East London Pathology Partnership and the South East London Pathology Partnership have worked together to support a smooth and safe transition of GP direct access services for Bexley, Lewisham and Greenwich from NHS East and South East London Pathology Partnership to the South East London Pathology Partnership.
The new NICE guidelines for the management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) were updated in October 2021, recommending primary care use of the enhanced liver fibrosis (ELF) test to assess the risk of NAFLD progression into liver fibrosis. Is this test available following the transfer of pathology services in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham?
At this time, the ELF test cannot be offered. However, work has begun to explore the possibility of purchasing the necessary equipment that would enable it to be offered at some point in the future.
For now, it is recommended that GPs in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham request platelets (FBC), AST (which will now be part of LFTs) and ALT (which will not be part of LFTs but can be ordered separately) and calculate the patient’s FIB-4 score: Fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) Calculator – Clinical Calculators – Hepatitis C Online (uw.edu)