Proposals to improve pathology services - consultation

Date published: 28 November 2016


Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today launched a public consultation on proposals to improve Pathology Services in Health and Social Care, including the Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS), in order to improve service and workforce sustainability and ensure a high quality service for the future.

HSC Pathology Services cost around £100 million to deliver each year, employ over 1,100 staff, and provide a service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Recognising the extent of innovation in biomedical sciences which underpin pathology, the launch of the consultation was one of the key early actions in the Minister’s agenda to deliver world class health and social care services, as outlined in ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’.

The Minister said: “Pathology is an extremely important but often unseen service in the effective delivery of health and social care, with 70-80% of patient diagnoses depending on a pathology result in order to determine appropriate treatment pathways.

“However, we face significant challenges and these can only be overcome with investment and through a regional programme of reform and improvement. I am therefore asking everyone who uses or works in the health service to contribute their views to this important consultation.” 

The consultation includes a proposal to integrate all HSC Pathology services, including NIBTS, into a single regional management structure. Currently these services are managed separately by five HSC Trusts, with NIBTS as a stand-alone agency responsible for the management of blood donation and supply. The service to blood donors and blood recipients would not be impacted, rather the proposal aims to facilitate more effective regional strategic decision making, planning and resource allocation, more sustainable and equitable services, and a service better able to modernise and evolve in response to changing clinical and quality requirements.

Speaking about the opportunity presented by the consultation, Minister O’Neill said: “The last major review of Pathology Services was carried out over 10 years ago, so the time is right to take them to the next level to ensure that we have the capacity to address the challenges as well as fully embrace future development opportunities that will support even better diagnostic outcomes for patients in the years ahead.”

The consultation document, the current arrangements for the delivery of Pathology Services across the HSC, explains the issues and opportunities faced, and seeks stakeholders’ views on three proposals for improving services. It will run until 24 February 2017.

Notes to editors: 

1. ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’ (October 2016) set out the Health Minister’s priority actions over the next 12 months, including the launch of a public consultation on ‘proposals to modernise and transform Pathology services designed to improve service and workforce sustainability ensuring a high quality pathology service for the future’. The Minister’s document can be viewed online

2. The consultation document was developed by the Health and Social Care Board in partnership with the Pathology Network (PathNet NI) following extensive engagement and pre-consultation with a range of key stakeholders including HSC Trusts, professional associations and institutes, universities and Royal Colleges. A full list of pre-consultees is provided in Appendix 2 of the consultation document.

3. The consultation is being conducted by the Health and Social Care Board. Responses must be received by 5pm on Friday 24 February 2017.

4. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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