Lab claims troubles are now in the past

A laboratory which was formed in partnership with a hospital trust has invested £12 million in the venture in just eight years.

Synlab, which teamed up with the Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust in 2014 to form Pathology First, is now performing millions of tests a year, the company has said.

Bosses are confident the site has overcome early difficulties and is now running smoothly and successfully.

A Synlab spokesman said: “Our Pathology First partnership performs around 14 million tests annually and, since its inception, £12 million has been invested to create state-of-the-art laboratories.

“Working together with our NHS partners during the pandemic, our teams of dedicated scientists and phlebotomists supported patients and clinicians with a service that continuously adapted to meet the considerable needs and challenges presented by COVID.

“We are proud of the many achievements delivered by Pathology First and remain committed to continuing to provide high-quality pathology services for the people of Essex and surrounding areas.”

The lab came under fire when thousands of smear samples had to be re-examined because of errors in 2018. A lack of staff has previously led to backlogs of tests.

Synlab now has no backlog of samples. Problems with recruitment and retention of staff have also been overcome and the company is on an upward trajectory.

One of Pathology First’s labs became the first in the UK to support remote plate reading, which was “a game-changer for our scientists” the company claims.

The company operates its laboratory in Bentalls Basildon. The tests were formerly carried out by NHS staff within hospitals.

The hospital trust’s contract with Synlab expires in 2024. The trust which runs Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals, is about to launch a marketing exercise to attract bidders for a new contract.

A spokesman said: “As the pathology contract tender is a public procurement process conducted by Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, it is not for us to comment on what might or might not happen in the years ahead.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter