South East London Pathology Services:

How has the Viapath organisation changed as a result of creating the NHS/SYNLAB partnership?

Published: 15th April 2021

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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