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11 February 2021

Top tips for developing a pathology network


When beginning the process towards procuring a new pathology system, there are so many questions and competing priorities. You have to do a service reconfiguration; you have to select and embed a LIMS system and undertake a transparent, fair – and often accelerated – procurement process. So what comes first?

Instead of diving in, first take a step back and reflect. To help you in that process, here are my five best-practice pre-procurement tips.

Build a common understanding – Pathology redesign has the potential to change pathology services for the better, delivering higher quality outcomes more efficiently – but only if everyone shares the vision for the future and buys into it wholeheartedly.

Central to the success of any procurement process and system reconfiguration is a shared vision for the program that’s simple to articulate.  Everyone involved, from the laboratory to the boardroom, needs to buy in to the potential for pathology service redesign. Building this common understanding at the start is fundamental.

Identify and agree on your network priorities – The driving force in pathology redesign is improving quality of care, not cutting costs, says NHS England. It’s about developing a sustainable and viable pathology service at a national, regional and local level. When designing your network, define and agree on your priorities as a charter and use these to guide you.

Pathology service reconfiguration is about centralising experience, sharing knowledge and improving the speed and quality of diagnostics. At a practical level, you should seek to work with a supplier who understands and shares this vision. You’re not simply buying a LIMS system; you’re investing in a partnership, and you need a partner that will be supportive, responsive and effective.

Have a positive mental attitude – Pathology reconfiguration is a once in a generation chance to transform the way this life-changing service is designed and delivered. You’re shaping pathology for generations to come, which is both an incredible opportunity – and a huge responsibility. Successful leaders approach significant challenges such as this with the right attitude. They have confidence in the outcome. They share this with their teams, inspiring others to join the journey.

Be realistic about time – It takes more time than you think, so build in some slack. While there is pressure within the organizations to fast-track, it’s something that you should resist. Compressing deadlines puts undue strain on those leading the process and sets unrealistic expectations to stakeholders. Pathology network formation isn’t something you can realistically do alongside a full-time job because it almost is a full-time job in itself.