Contract Failures in Diagnostics and Pathology

Over the years there has been a number of contracts in the area of imaging diagnostics and pathology where companies have failed to carry out the contract as required.

The Capita contract for Primary Care Services Support, which has failed in a number of areas (see GP Services) also includes a substantial amount of diagnostics support. In November 2018, it came to light that Capita had failed to send out nearly 50,000 letters as part of the cervical cancer screening programme and although the company discovered this issue in August 2018, it neglected to inform NHS England of the issue for two months.

In April 2018, it was reported that a consortium of NHS trusts, known as the East Midlands radiology consortium (EMRAD), is withholding money from GE Healthcare because a multimillion pound imaging system is still not working properly. The agreement was signed in 2014. There was widespread concern in 2017 over the performance of the EMRAD system, which frequently crashed leaving clinicians unable to see or share patient scans. In at least one case in Leicester, images were saved to a CD and sent by taxi to Nottingham. As a result of continued problems, University Hospitals of Leicester Trust announced in October 2017 that it would withdraw from the consortium and seek an alternative system.

In pathology the most widely reported problems have been with the company Viapath, established by Serco in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, In 2014, Viapath  was found to have overcharged the NHS for diagnostic tests. The venture has also been dogged by allegations of cost-cutting and clinical failings.  Internal documents showed amongst senior consultants who claimed that staff cuts and a lack of investment since privatisation left some laboratories close to disaster.

In internal emails clinicians said the company had an “inherent inability… to understand that you cannot cut corners and put cost saving above quality.” The trust and Viapath say the problems have now been resolved. But this only happened after the intervention of senior medical staff and changes to the structure of the joint venture that reduced Serco’s role.

See further reading below for more examples of contract failures.

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