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Private path labs introduced

4th August 2006

Private firms are being called in to speed up NHS pathology tests, the  government has announced.

£1 million has been set aside for 12 pilot schemes to use private sector testing and increase efficiency in NHS-run services.

Pathology services include blood tests, cervical smear tests and checks on tissue samples, such as biopsies to detect cancer. Around 70 per cent of all diagnoses involve a pathology investigation and demand for these tests has been rising by 10 per cent each year.

The announcement, which comes as part of a review into pathology services, has sparked concerns over fragmenting the NHS and allowing private firms to pick up easy money. Pathology services cost the NHS around £2.5bn a year. 

The plans were announced in response to a review of pathology services in England, which called for improvements. 

The 12 pilots will run until 2008/9 when the most efficient ways of working will be expanded across England.

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