The Queen’s speech, delivered by Prince Charles on 11th May, reiterated government plans to increase the capacity, reach and efficiency of the UK’s diagnostic services. In response, the IBMS offers the government and Department of Health and Social Care the profession’s advice and expertise to work towards making this a reality.
160 new community diagnostic centres (CDCs)
The IBMS welcomes the move to introduce easier access to diagnostic services centred around patients. Quicker, more accessible entry through a ‘one-stop shop’ will lead to earlier diagnoses, better outcomes for patients and the potential to save lives.
However, these new CDCs must be introduced with sufficient resources – in terms of staffing, IT provision and connectivity with other systems (such as pathology networks and GP practices).
The CDCs are likely to significantly increase the workload for our local and regional pathology laboratories and change how it is generated. Good collaboration with existing networks and IT interoperability is essential to ensure efficiency and quick turnarounds.
To adhere to the ‘point of care testing in community pharmacies’ guidance (January 2022) and its ‘buy it right’, ‘use it right’, and ‘keep it right’ ethos, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered biomedical scientists, and other laboratory experts should be involved in the selection of equipment, quality assurance and governance of diagnostic devices when used for patient care in CDCs.
IBMS members across the four nations have expert qualifications in point of care testing (POCT) and are uniquely positioned to advise on successful POCT stewardship.
17 million more diagnostic tests over the next three years
Although the largest portions of this figure are made up of CDC testing and imaging services rather than healthcare laboratory services, the IBMS agrees with the government’s plan to increase and improve the utilisation of our existing capacity for laboratory testing.
The pathology service has consistently increased testing capacity across the four nations. This was demonstrated over the past two years to control the spread of Covid-19. The workforce is uniquely positioned to support and inform any further requirements for increased capacity in diagnostic laboratories – provided the appropriate investment in workforce expansion is made.
The IBMS welcomes the opportunity to work with governments in all four nations to increase capacity further and improve patient care. By March 2025, 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test will receive it within six weeks.
Although many of these figures relate to diagnosis via imaging rather than laboratory services, there is an expectation for increased capacity in our healthcare laboratories when they will be changing operational procedures.
CDCs will provide new challenges regarding the collection, storage, transportation and reception of specimens. There will also need to be investment in fully linked up, standardised and interoperable laboratory IT systems – capable of receiving, sharing and delivering vital diagnostic test results to clinical pathways across the UK.
The IBMS would like to offer the profession’s expert advice to ensure that these new changes in the patient pathway are not disruptive to patient outcomes and that the latest working methods result in better, not worse, patient care.
To meet the government’s ambitious goals for our diagnostic services, there must be an investment in the workforce, in new ways of working and in interoperable IT systems and – to avoid some of the pitfalls faced when setting up the Lighthouse Laboratories – we must use the existing expertise of our diagnostic workforce when setting up the new CDCs.
The IBMS would gladly accept the opportunity to work with governments across the four nations to increase the capacity further, reach and efficiency of the UK’s diagnostic services and ensure the best outcomes for patients.