A plan to start processing all of Lancashire’s non-urgent blood tests on a single site has been delayed for three years.
The centralised facility, to be based at Lancaster University, had been due to open in 2021, but The Gazette has learned that funding for the new unit will not be confirmed until a year after that, meaning it cannot open until 2024.
It was revealed last year that the combined operation would require a £31m grant, but could save Lancashire’s hospital trusts a combined £11m a year in running costs.
During the delay, collaboration will be stepped up between existing pathology facilities, including at Blackpool Victoria. All of the current sites will retain their urgent blood testing capability even after the new hub opens.
The Unite union has condemned the centralisation plan, claiming it has so far cost at least £600,000, and criticised a lack of consultation with concerned and experienced staff.
Regional organiser Keith Hutson said the pause in the project would prove that collaboration was the best way forward.
“I’m all for closer working; we can save fortunes without having massive upheaval,” he said. “We can look at sending specialised tests to certain labs, but most GP work needs to be done quickly, and for that, it needs to be done locally. There’s no need to be dragging samples all over.”
Jean Wrightfrom the Lancashire Pathology Collaboration said: “NHSI are continually reviewing their business case guidance and have recently given a date of 2024 for the hub to be built, based on the time they anticipate the Treasury would need for their approval process, if required.
“We have been asked by NHSI to add more technical detail into some sections of the Strategic Outline Case, but this won’t change the previously approved recommendations.”