BY TOBY PORTER
NHS patients will have their medical tests diagnosed by private companies if more than £2billion worth of diagnostic work is farmed out to commercial firms as planned.
South London health chiefs were yesterday discussing which firms to “outsource” pathology work to for most of the millions of people tested in the hospital system every year.
But the 15-year contract to carry out testing of blood and tissue, worth £2.25billion, was discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust Board and has regularly been brought up at Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust.
Campaigners against what they call a creeping privatisation of the NHS have slammed the moves to have the work done by one of a string of bidders.
South-east London was one of the first to go out to “procurement” – or privatisation – via a formal notice in the Official Journal of the European Union in August 2018.
The new service is due to start September 2020.
The move is being opposed by South East London Keep Our NHS Public (SELKONP) groups because communication between pathologists and GPs can be a matter of life and death.
They highlighted the case of 47,000 letters to patients which went missing when private company Capita was put in charge of cervical screening – which resulted in the firm being stripped of the contract by the NHS last month.
Tony Sullivan of SELKONP, a former clinical director of care for children at Lewisham Hospital, said: “Contracts should be made public, publicly scrutinised and consulted on.
This is public money, using our taxes, to pay the private sector for services that should and could be done in the NHS. “There should be strong relationships between lab scientists and the medics who ask for the rests to be done.
Without one, there is less commitment and attention to detail and things go wrong. “That is what we are worried about.
“South-east Londoners must ask themselves who best serves patient interests – multinational health companies who are in it for the profits they can make, or dedicated NHS workers, researchers and clinicians?”
The 15-year deal to take over pathology – which could be extended to 20 years – is being fought over by three consortia; Synlab; HSL – run by the Royal Free London Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust and the Doctors Laboratory, which is owned by Australian company Sonic Healthcare limited and Viapath – the current provider, which is run jointly by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital and Serco.
“The existing contracts for both trusts are due to expire in September 2020 and hence both organisations require a new service to be provided under a new network specification to ensure that patient services are best supported now and into the future.”