South 4 Pathology Partnership picks laboratory information management system

A new pathology network – featuring labs at four trusts in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire, and Swindon – has chosen the CliniSys WinPath Enterprise laboratory information management system (LIMS) to support its joined-up working and build a platform for innovation.

The South 4 Pathology Partnership, which was formed in 2018 and covers Buckinghamshire Healthcare, Milton Keynes University Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals, and Great Western Hospitals NHS trusts, plans to use the single LIMS to help deliver an ‘integrated, consistent, and high quality service’ across all network sites.

The LIMS will also support the network’s programme of innovation – ensuring all trusts, clinicians and patients can take advantage of new technology.

Ian Ward, Transformation Programme Director at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The history of networks goes back to the Carter Report, which recommended that pathology services needed to consolidate to achieve economies of scale.

“The Carter Report focused on efficiency, but we also wanted to make sure there is equity across the patch, so users get the same quality service wherever they are.

“It was evident from other pathology networks across England that to achieve that aim, we would need a fully integrated, interoperable system.”

The South 4 Pathology Partnership is one of 29 pathology networks mandated by NHS England. It was originally intended to be composed of three trusts, but longstanding clinical relationships with Milton Keynes University Hospital led to its inclusion, which was approved by the NHS.

Derek Roskell, Clinical Lead for the South 4 Pathology Partnership, and a consultant pathologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have taken the network concept in a different direction. The Carter vision of hub and spokes is usually interpreted as one big lab and lots of small ones, but our requirement modifies this a little.

“We recognise that while physical consolidation is important for some parts of the service, an integrated LIMS, digital histopathology, common equipment and shared procurement can deliver many of the Carter benefits through a virtual consolidation.

“We want key pathology services in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, and Swindon close to their clinicians, but working as part of a joined up service across the network. This model needs to be flexible and able to respond to new challenges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed the importance of this way of thinking. When it arrived, hospitals needed a lot of tests conducted very fast. The LIMS will support an organic model that can respond to changes of this kind. Results will be shared across the network, so they are available to clinicians wherever our patients are treated.”

The pandemic accelerated the procurement process for a new LIMS, as it unlocked central funding for technology to help services to respond and build resilience for the future.

The building of the new system will start in Oxford and, once that’s live, it will be followed by a phased deployment to the other trusts.