Health campaigners urge Homerton Hospital not to privatise pathology laboratory

pathology laboratory DFAT Australian Aid via Flickr

Campaign: petitioners fear Homerton’s ‘wonderful’ service could be privatised. Photograph: DFAT Australian Aid via Flickr

Concerned healthcare campaigners have called on Homerton Hospital to guarantee that its “excellent” pathology laboratory will not be privatised or outsourced.

An online petition, which has gained more than 2,600 signatures in four days, states that NHS staff, patients and residents are “deeply concerned” the “excellent pathology service (the ‘path lab’)” at Homerton University Hospital could be privatised or relocated outside Hackney.

“We call on the Homerton Hospital Board to guarantee that the path lab will not be privatised and will remain at Homerton Hospital,” the petition states.

The department had been due an upgrade, in order to maintain its accreditation. In 2014 work began on a new three storey facility to house the laboratory and testing services, on the site between the existing pathology department and hospital’s boiler house.

However the building firm contracted to do the work went into administration last summer, leaving the hospital and its patients without the updated service.

Petitioners are concerned the service could be transferred to a “factory lab”, miles across London or even in Essex. “This would lead to a deterioration of samples, poorer results and a less responsive service for patients,” the petition states.

“At the moment, the path lab can respond quickly to changing local needs and new medical research. If it was privatised or outsourced, any changes would mean renegotiating contracts with another provider.”

‘Wonderful service’

Hackney resident Jennifer Brough, 25, signed the petition, having made use of the pathology service herself.

In March she visited Homerton’s A&E, believing she had appendicitis. It turned out her fallopian tube was twisted and one of her ovaries had to be removed within 24 hours.

“Without the blood tests and urine samples analysed by the pathology unit, I wouldn’t have found out what was wrong so quickly,” she said. “The whole service and everyone there was wonderful.”

Ms Brough said she added her name to the campaign because she fears the unknown consequences that privatisation would have on the service. “It’s not right to carve up the NHS – it’s too much of an unknown,” she said. “Not enough people know what the risk of privatising such an important public service would be.

“It is difficult to know how divisions would impact services and who will be affected.”

“The NHS is not something that needs to be divided to make profit. If it is treated more like a business model and less like a benevolent trust, it has the wrong focus.”

pathology-virus Yale Rosen via Flickr

Pathology laboratories analyse blood, stool, urine or tissue samples for abnormalities. Photograph: Yale Rosen via Flickr


Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed it is considering “all options” for the future of the pathology unit.

A spokesperson for the Trust told the Hackney Citizen: “Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has championed its pathology services over the years and consistently resisted the move towards outsourcing pathology to other providers – which is a common occurrence elsewhere in the NHS.”

The Trust must now “review options” for the provision of pathology services to ensure they stand up to the “rigorous accreditation process”, and continue to be safe and effective.

The spokesperson added: “We have commissioned external experts to review the options for the delivery of our pathology services.”

Some pathology services for Homerton patients are already provided by other NHS Trusts, the spokesperson confirmed, which will also be “considered” over the coming months.

The trust is considering whether or not to continue a new build pathology facility on the vacant site as part of its current review of pathology services. The board has not yet set a date for the pathology review.

This article was updated at 10:23 on Monday 25 April, clarifying that a date has not yet been set for the board review of the pathology service.