The BBC has reported that a survey held by the Royal College of Pathologists indicates that patients are facing delays in diagnosis due to shortages among pathology staff. The survey found that of the NHS histopathology departments that responded, only 3% had enough staff to meet current clinical demand.
Professor Jo Martin, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, states that the cost of these staff shortages is “high for both patients and for our health services,” highlighting that, “for patients, it means worrying delays in diagnosis and treatment.”
The report found that the demand for pathology services has grown significantly in recent years but there has been no corresponding increase in the number of pathology staff. The Royal College of Pathologists carried out a workforce survey of histopathology departments through the UK in 2017 and of the 158 departments in the UK, 103 responded. It was found that 45% of the departments have to outsource work while half were forced to use locums.
The report suggests that histopathologists are facing significant pressure from growing workloads due to new NHS screening programmes, and highlights a possible retirement crisis, with a quarter of all staff aged 55 or over. Professor Martin says, “Making sure pathology services can cope with current and future demand is essential if we are to ensure early diagnosis and improve outcomes for patients.”
In light of this report, the Royal College of Pathologists is calling for better IT systems, more funded training places and further investment in pathology services.
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