A national report into pathology services by the Healthcare Commission has awarded Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust an overall rating of ‘excellent’. The Trust scored the highest of all the pathology services in the South West peninsula.
The Pathology Laboratory, based at North Devon District Hospital, carries out many different types of tests and analyses, usually involving blood, other body fluids and tissue.
These tests are often vital to the diagnosis of conditions – some of them life-threatening – and form the basis of doctors’ decisions on treatment in more than 70% of cases.
The laboratory serves all the community hospitals and GP surgeries in the North Devon area, and Stratton, which is in Cornwall.
Each year Pathology carries out more than 3.75 million tests within a total budget of £5.25 million. However, it is very cost-effective in the ratio between staff and the number of tests carried out.
The Trust has used the Healthcare Commission information to identify areas priorities for further improvement. These have included providing a 24-hour service analysis for patients who are suspected of having cardiac conditions.
The laboratory has also moved to a computer-based system for returning results to clinicians and GPs. As the geographical area covered by the lab is so large, this has significantly reduced time delays. Previously, results were paper-based and relied on the Trust’s daily delivery-van service.
The Commission highlights that despite increasing demand from clinicians, Pathology staff are turning tests around faster than ever. Over the past six years the numbers of tests have increased by:
- 82% in Biochemistry (eg tests for diabetes)
- 31% in Haematology (eg anaemia)
- 15% in Histopathology (eg cancer)
- 31% in Microbiology (eg MRSA)
Demand from GPs has grown particularly rapidly.
John Bronze, Pathology Manager, said:
“I’m delighted to see that the enormous amount of hard work put in by all staff in the Pathology department, and the benefits this brings to patients in terms of quick and accurate diagnosis, have been recognised.
“We’re very proud of the quality of service we provide both to the community and to the acute hospital. With the continued support from the executive team, we will continue to strive towards our goal of becoming a beacon for the provision of pathology diagnostics in a rural environment.”
Jo Gibbs, Director of Operations, said:
“Congratulations to the Pathology Department for scoring so highly in this rigorous national review. The department fulfils a vital function within the NHS community in North Devon. It provides a good quality service, and a faster turnaround of results, despite a rise in demand from clinicians.”