British Government to award GBP15 million funding for series of telepathology initiatives

London 03 August 2000British Health Minister Lord Philip Hunt will invest GBP15 million for 23 new innovative pathology projects to modernise and ensure the most effective and efficient delivery of pathology services in England. Announcing the awards from the Pathology Modernisation Fund, Lord Hunt stated that pathology services will play an important role in the implementation and delivery of the National Health Service (NHS) Plan. They are an integral part of effective NHS diagnosis and treatment, and of patient care and screening programmes and so have a critical place in protecting and improving public health.

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Examples of the schemes include among others an integrated Electronic National Ophthalmic Pathology project based at the Moorfields Eye Hospital which will bring together the expertise from ophthalmic pathology laboratories across the country. The North Yorkshire Cervical Cytology Service will modernise the specialist area of cervical cytology and improve screening quality and recall fail-safe mechanisms. It will equally establish a training school for professional and service development. East Somerset NHS Trust and Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust will provide a fully integrated IT system for test requests and results to be used by all health clinicians in hospitals and General Practitioner (GP) practices.

The awards were recommended by the independent steering group of key professionals and managers which manages the Pathology Modernisation Programme and reflect the need for leading edge projects and examples of excellence in four key areas:

  1. National integration and information exchange attended by projects which bring together learning in specialist areas and enable pathologists to share their expertise across the country.
  2. Reconfigurations across regions, cities and rural areas dealt with in projects which reorganise the location and management of services leading to greater efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. New management systems using automation and Information Technology provided by projects which capitalise on the benefits of automated diagnostic tests and integrated specially designed technology. These ensure more accurate test results and better access and information for doctors and patients.
  4. Modernisation in specialist areas of pathology. These projects highlight developments which are needed in specialists pathology services such as microbiology and neonatal pathology and provide examples of how these areas might be developed and modernised.

"Through the Pathology Modernisation Fund (PMF), the Government has asked all the relevant pathology interests to work together to improve quality and to achieve benefits across the service. Our strategy for pathology will secure an integrated service that meets the needs of patients, clinicians and the public health in the new NHS. This GBP15 million has been awarded to set the pattern for pathology modernisation by establishing demonstration sites for the future. These projects are capital investments that focus around structured management plans for the more effective and efficient delivery of pathology services. Our Pathology Modernisation Programme (PMP) clearly demonstrates that we are alert not only to present needs within the service, but also to future demands. Pathology services must meet new challenges, as we implement the NHS Plan and be ready to take advantage of advances in technology as they come on stream", Lord Hunt commented.

The independent Steering Group of key professionals and managers which oversees and informs the PMP represents a broad range of expertise and includes representatives of the main pathology disciplines, primary and acute medicine, and clinical and biomedical science, as well as PHLS, Health Authorities and NHS Executive Regional Offices. In 1999-2000, the PMF allocated GBP5 million to 12 targeted exemplar projects. A detailed survey of the Pathology Modernisation Programme and the application criteria for the 2000-2001 Pathology Modernisation Fund have been set out in the Invitation to Applicants posted on the Pathology Modernisation Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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