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Calls For Clarity Over Bids To Take Over Pathology Lab At Dorset County Hospital

Dorset County Hospital 2

8:40am 17th July 2014
(Updated 4:59pm 17th July 2014)

Community campaigners are calling on the CEO of Dorset County Hospital, Jean O'Callaghan to confirm whether a private provider which took over pathology in Bedford Foundation Trust when she was boss there, is bidding to win the pathology contract in Dorset.

On 1 December 2009 Jean O'Callaghan outsourced pathology to Viapath/GSTS in her last job as CEO of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust. 

She said this would "benefit patients, with an improved and responsive service, fit to meet their changing and diverse needs". But local campaigners here claim in reality the service faced a number of failures.

The Dorset Health Campaign Group say performance reviews for Viapath/GSTS laboratories in St Thomas' Hospital, show it exceeded the agreed targets for the "turnaround times" for processing pathology tests 46 times in 2011, with "critical risk levels" breached 14 times. They say there were over 400 clinical "incidents" - including losing or mislabelling patients' blood and cell samples in the same period

Bob Owen, a member of the Dorset Health Campaign group said: "We have genuine and legitimate fears for the future of pathology services in Dorset if the pathology service is sold off.  Jean O'Callaghan led the privatisation in Bedford. A controversial provider won the contract which has not got off to a good start. The tendering for this service is currently shrouded in secrecy. We have repeatedly requested copies of the specification for the service which is not commercially sensitive information and have been repeatedly refused."

Councillor Ros Kayes, who helped launch the campaign said:  "I am worried there could be errors if the pathology lab is sold-off . The lab is currently a centre of excellence particularly for cancer, and quite rightly, anyone unfortunate enough to require cancer tests I would like to know the results will be their own, not someone else's as was apparently the case in Bedfordshire when the service was transferred into the private sector there.”

“We always have to remember that for private companies , making money is going to be more important than quality of service. Corners are inevitably cut, and that's just not good enough.  Because of the problems caused recently when private companies have taken over pathology services, I think people have a right to know whether GSTS pathology is bidding to win the pathology contract in West Dorset. "

A spokesperson for DCHFT said: “We are not able to say who the shortlisted providers are at this point but the evaluation process is underway.

“The Trust is using a tender process to assess whether the existing pathology service is providing best value. We have the option of going with a bid or leaving our service as it is. The outcome of this process will not be finalised before the end of September 2014 and it will be the Trust Board that takes the decision.

“The Trust is following a procurement process governed by European Union Directives. The project team has been rigorous in adhering to best practice and the core principles of procurement, one of which is transparency. The specification has been written by Trust pathology and support service staff.  Tenders submitted by potential providers are being evaluated by 16 panel members representing the key disciplines.”


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