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Viapath provides pathology services to The Princess Royal University Hospital as well as to Guy's, St Thomas’ and King's College hospitals, delivering tests across 20 major pathology services, from clinical transplantation to biochemical genetics and biochemical sciences. More than 1,000 scientists support these services, providing over 20,000 individual pathology tests. The laboratories are either accredited with or working towards the ISO 15189 medical laboratory standard and are listed by UKAS. The cancer diagnostics hub has an extensive range of tests and the Haematological Malignancy Diagnostic Centre offers a comprehensive, state of the art clinical and diagnostic service. Taking on the recommendations of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on cancer services, it offers a multidisciplinary service to diagnose and monitor haematological cancers. This includes immunophenotyping, cytogenetics, molecular haemato-oncology and histology providing a high-volume, rapid turn-around, integrated diagnostic facility in a single pathology laboratory site. The genetics laboratories are supporting the UK’s ground-breaking 100,000 Genomes Project, which is set to improve the lives of countless patients with cancer and rare diseases by sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from around 70,000 NHS patients with rare diseases or cancer.
Viapath has instigated many research projects some of which have resulted in the development of new tests with sustainable clinical benefits. One such project aims to revolutionise the field of pathogen identification and anti-microbial susceptibility. It will improve early management of sepsis, reduce unnecessary antibiotic use to combat antimicrobial resistance, and identify rare but serious pandemic infectious diseases threats, both known and emerging. The goal is to provide same-day microbiological identification and anti-microbial susceptibility, which until now has been an enigma.
A Newborn Screening project enabled the linking of newborn and antenatal screening results, improving the robustness, flexibility and scalability of Viapath’s NHS service which is a benefit to patient lives. Viapath has an Innovation Fund from which scientists are invited to apply for funding to develop new tests which then progress to new services that support patient care.
In 2018 Viapath Nutris, a pathology-to-patient service providing access to tests which are focusing initially on vitamin deficiency, was introduced. There are around 120,000 people in the UK who are B12 deficient, with vegans, vegetarians and patients with pernicious anaemia most vulnerable and waiting for a B12 deficiency diagnosis, risks neurological damage and cognitive decline. The online service provides direct access to tests that help patients to identify their B12 status and manage it.
Viapath was established under the name of GSTS Pathology in 2009 as a partnership with Serco. It was founded in response to the recommendations in the “Report of the Review of NHS Pathology Services in England” chaired by Lord Carter of Coles, published in 2006. GSTS Pathology posted a £5.9 million loss in 2011 but a £3.8m net profit for the year ending December 2013, up from £300,000 in 2012. Income increased by 6% from £87.6m in 2012 to £92.5m in 2013. In 2014 the majority-owned NHS joint venture rebranded itself Viapath when it merged with Kingspath.
In January 2014, Viapath began operating as three different entities: Viapath Group, Viapath Analytics and Viapath Services. Viapath Group – enables the provision of an end to end pathology service including laboratory testing services, laboratory facilities and equipment, logistics, IT and corporate support services. Viapath Analytics – enables the provision of laboratory testing services across the full range of core and reference pathology services including Blood Sciences, Histopathology & Cytology, Microbiology, Molecular Pathology and Genetics. Viapath Services – enables the provision of fully managed laboratory services including equipment, consumables, facilities, stock, logistics and IT to support laboratory testing across all pathology disciplines. The company awarded a contract to Cerner for its PathNet pathology system in May 2014. The company increased its income by 5% to £97.1m in 2014 compared to the previous year. Profit however dipped very slightly from £3.8m to £3.7m over the same period.
In February 2016, Dr David Bennett, former head of NHS Foundation Trust regulator Monitor, was appointed the new Chair of Viapath. In July 2016, Dr Dominic Harrington won the ‘Academy for Healthcare Science award for innovation’ at the Advancing Healthcare Awards. He was recognised for his achievement in creating Viapath’s Innovation Academy. The Innovation Academy is a peer-to-peer platform for innovation and was formed to encourage networking in order to advance pathology services and communicate developments in pathology. Over 100 delegates attended the inaugural symposium, which included presentations on subjects such as Child Health, Infectious Diseases and Next Generation Diagnostics.
In 2016, response to the Government’s new Apprenticeship Levy scheme, Viapath partnered with 3aaa Apprenticeships to train apprentices under Viapath’s new VIAcademy scheme.
In 2018, in conjunction with the Academy of Healthcare Science, the “Viapath Award For Innovation In Healthcare Science” was created, a category that was open to all UK healthcare scientists. The winners were Jonathan Ashmore and Cormac McGrath, clinical scientists from NHS Highlands and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for their work on developing a free app which allows children to experience their upcoming MRI in virtual reality, helping them to understand and prepare for what is often a difficult and scary experience.
Following successful trials, in 2018, Viapath agreed to implement diagnostics.ai's unique artificial intelligence (AI) technology into Viapath's South London Specialist Virology Centre at King's College Hospital. This technology automates the analysis and reporting of results. The innovative system removes manual steps, delivering a digitised and paperless system (tying into the NHS Five Year Forward View- Paperless 2020), as well as enabling faster turnaround, reduced risk and improved laboratory capacity.
When the company lost its bid for a renewal of the 15 year contract the trusts bought our Serco's share.
Internal documents leaked to Corporate Watch in August 2014 indicate that the company overcharged the NHS for diagnostic tests. A 2013 internal audit by Guy's into three of the 15 laboratories run by Viapath found its invoicing and billing systems were “unreliable” and contained “material inaccuracies”, amounting to an overcharge of £283,561 over a sample three-month period. A variety of complaints by clinicians were recorded, centering on a policy of employing staff who were less experienced and less expensive. In a review of its first four years, marked “strictly confidential”, Chief Executive Richard Jones admitted that it had “achieved much less than hoped” and that “initial attempts at transformation were badly handled and ended up costing money rather than saving it”.
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