A contract for to set up the largest ever pathology network was launched In September 2018 and this week news about the shortlist of bidders makes it very likely that it will go to a private provider.

Eight hospital trusts advertised a pathology contract worth £3bn over 20 years, which aims to link services as part of new hub and spoke network. The Health Service Journal published details of the three shortlisted bidders, but their names have not been confirmed by local commissioners.

  • Health Services Laboratories (a joint venture between the Royal Free London Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals FT, and The Doctors Laboratory)
  • Synlab Group
  • Incumbent provider Viapath (a joint venture between Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT, King’s College Hospital FT and Serco)


The network will serve at least 8 trusts across London and the South East. The scale of the procurement was set after a review from Lord Carter identified potential savings of £200m from setting a hub and spoke networks, linking services together. The hub hospitals will provide more complex services whilst the smaller hospitals focus on simpler pathology work for their own hospital.


The existing contract is currently held by Viapath, a company owned by Serco and two trusts related, who have already transferred NHS staff to work for them. If they won, the new contract would expand this arrangement.


The contract will be awarded in September 2019, and the new service is expected to be in place by September 2020.


Lewisham and Greenwich Trust, refused to be part of the procurement because it is considering a solution that keeps its pathology provision within the NHS.


Commenting on the procurement Sarah Cook health lead for Unite, who have members in many of the trusts involved said

“we have concerns about the protection jobs and whether this is extending privatisation by the back door. We would support bringing these services back-in house.”


The eight trusts involved are:

  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT
  • King’s College Hospital FT
  • East Sussex Healthcare Trust
  • Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust
  • Oxleas FT
  • South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust
  • South London and Maudsley FT
  • Royal Brompton and Harefield FT


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