Privatisation in the diagnostics/pathology sector has been ongoing for more than a decade and several companies are now well established with large long-term contracts. In pathology the leading company is Synlab and in diagnostics the leading companies are Inhealth and Alliance Medical. This section is a quick overview of some of the major companies involved in the sector.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in the need for testing capacity and an increase in the number of private companies involved. In addition, from February 2021 onwards NHS England awarded places on the NHS Increasing Capacity Framework contract to a large number of small and medium sized companies involved in diagnostics and pathology, plus the large private hospital groups and major private diagnostics companies. Full profiles are available for the larger companies.
Synlab/Integrated Pathology Partnerships (separate profile available)
Synlab is the company most embedded in the pathology system within the NHS. Originally Synlab set up Integrated Pathology Partnerships (iPP) in 2010 to work in partnership with the NHS to deliver pathology testing services in the UK, and iPP now conducts more than 24 million tests per annum and employs over 600 staff across seven sites in the UK.
More recently Synlab has entered partnerships with the NHS under its global name, Synlab.
Synlab, a German company, operates in 35 countries across four continents, employing more than 19,000 members of staff and conducting over 500 million tests per annum. Synlab as it is today was created by the private equity company Cinven in August 2015, when it combined Labco with synlab. The company was launched on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in May 2021.
As iPP the company offers a full range of diagnostic tests and services ranging from phlebotomy, routine and urgent tests. Since 2010, iPP has formed joint venture (JV) partnerships with five NHS Foundation Trusts in Taunton, Yeovil, Southend, Basildon and the Christie in Manchester. In addition, the company works with CCGs in community testing, point of care testing and phlebotomy. Details of the partnerships can be found above.
The company has three operating companies: iPP Limited and iPP Analytics provide a fully-fledged testing service in Somerset and Essex respectively. iPP Facilities manages the laboratory facilities, equipment and logistics at all of the iPP laboratory locations.
In January 2020, Synlab was named as the preferred provider to take over the £2.25 billion, 15 year contract to provide pathology services to most of south east and central London, replacing Viapath (this was a Serco joint venture with the trusts).
In November 2020, Synlab and Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust signed an agreement to act as a joint venture in respect of the South East London Pathology Procurement. The new joint venture began on 1 April 2021.
The contract covers the provision of pathology services to South London and Maudsley FT, Oxleas FT, the Royal Brompton and Harefield FT, and to Guy’s and King’s FTs, the two trusts who jointly owned Viapath.
In 2012 Synlab was excluded from the procurement process to provide pathology services to Royal Free London FT and UCLH as the company lied - the company said it was in the process of developing a laboratory close to the trusts’ sites which would meet the requirements of the tender but this was not true.
Alliance Medical (separate profile available)
Alliance Medical is an independent provider of medical imaging services to health organisations across Europe. In the UK, the company provides a wide range of scanning techniques, including MRI and PET-CT, at 37 static sites and in 45 mobile units. The company has a 10 year contract for PET-CT scanning in NW England. It is owned by the South African healthcare company, Life Healthcare, which acquired Alliance Medical in 2016. For a full overview of this company see our Private Providers section.
Inhealth (separate profile available)
Inhealth is the largest private supplier of diagnostic procedures in the UK and works for almost all hospital trusts. The company has a large number of individual contracts with CCGs and hospital trusts, as well as being listed on several central framework agreements for screening services (NHS Supply Chain and NHS Shared Business Services National Procurement Frameworks), such as for interventional cardiology. For a full overview of this company see our Private Providers section.
Everlight Radiology (formerly Radiology Reporting Online Ltd)
Everlight Radiology is an Australian company established in 2006. The company first entered the UK market in 2010 as Radiology Reporting Online – a partnership with University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). The company has had numerous contracts with hospital trusts, some of short duration as the company is contracted in to clear a backlog of images that need analysis. For example, in August 2017, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, awarded the company a one month contract for remote radiology reporting services.
Other contracts are more long-term, for example in April 2018 Everlight Radiology was awarded the teleradiology tender for three Trusts across Mid and South Essex. The contract comprises urgent after hours emergency and routine radiology reporting services for Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Southend University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The Doctors Laboratory Ltd
TDL's parent company, Sonic Healthcare Ltd , is an Australian clinical diagnostic organisation employing over 22,000 people. Sonic is one of the world's largest providers of clinical diagnostics, and offers extensive laboratory pathology services to the medical community in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, UK and the USA. Its bases in the UK are in London and Manchester.
As well as the Health Services Laboratories partnership, TDL also has contracts with other trusts, community and acute, for managed pathology services.
Mediscan Diagnostics Services Ltd
Mediscan Diagnostic Services is a provider of ultrasound diagnostic services at clinics across the UK. They also provide audiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, physiotherapy, MRI, and endoscopy services across 30 clinics. In several areas, Mediscan has been awarded several contracts by NHS organisations in previous years, including a musculoskeletal (MSK) pain assessment and treatment service for Lincolnshire CCGs and Walsall AQP non-obstetric ultrasound service.
Spire Healthcare (separate profile available)
The private hospital company, Spire Healthcare, has considerable diagnostic and pathology capabilities. Its website reports that it has one of the largest independent networks of pathology labs and it works with the independent sector, NHS hospitals, GPs, pharmaceutical companies, research centres and the UK's largest health screening organisation. Spire Healthcare has been awarded a place on NHS England's four year Increasing Capacity Framework contract, which covers diagnostic work as well as elective surgery.
Other smaller companies that are listed on the NHS Increasing Capacity Framework contract include Medical Imaging Partnership Ltd, Cellular Pathology Services, Medneo Diagnostics, Diagnostics World Ltd, Newmedica, and Real Imaging Ltd. A listing on the framework means that these companies can be chosen by NHS organisations to carry out work without a further tender process, only a call-off contract is needed.
Health Services Ltd
HSL describes itself as 'a progressive partnership' between the Australian company TDL (The Doctors Laboratory), UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and North Middlesex University Hospital . It carries out all the routine and specialist pathology departments from these NHS Trusts.
Synlab, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King's College
The joint venture between Synlab, a German company, Guy's and St Thomas FT, and King's College Hospital FT began 1 April 2021. The joint venture took over from Viapath, a joint venture between Serco and Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust and King's College Hospital, that was for several years the largest pathology service provider in the UK, processing more than 22 million tests a year in London and Bedford.
Viapath was established in 2009 as a joint venture between Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Serco. King’s College Hospital joined them in 2010. In early 2020, Viapath lost the contract for covering a large swathe of south and east London and as a result Serco decided to withdraw from the venture. In June 2020 it was announced that King’s College Hospital FT and Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT will pay an undisclosed sum to Serco for its share of Viapath. In April 2021 it was reported in the HSJ that Serco received £15 million from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospitals foundation trusts to leave the Viapath joint venture.
South West Pathology Services (SPS)
Southwest Pathology Services is a joint venture between Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and private sector partner – Integrated Pathology Partnerships (iPP), a subsidiary of Synlab. The joint venture was established in June 2012, serving a population of 500,000 and over 100 GP practices.
A collaboration between Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals FT and Southend University Hospital FT and the private laboratory Integrated Pathology Partnerships (iPP), a subsidiary of Synlab, which provides pathology services across south Essex. It was launched in October 2014. Major problems were found with this service during a quality assurance visit in 2017. This led to smear test samples from 2,500 women having to be re-examined.
Christie Pathology Partnership
In 2014, the Christie Pathology Partnership (CPP) was set up as a joint venture between Synlab and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. Synlab operates from within on-site pathology laboratories and serves a population of more than 3.2 million. The laboratories also provide testing, screening and assay development to support The Christie’s early phase clinical trials, with around 200 trials underway at any one time. Over 1 million tests are reported to be carried out per year, including: breast tumour receptor testing; blood sciences (biochemistry, haematology, blood Transfusion, stem cell processing); haematological malignancy diagnostic services; histopathology; oncology cytogenetics; and specialist oncology biochemistry.