Katie Arnold provided a PowerPoint presentation to the Committee on Pathology Services which can be found on the following link: -
Katie Arnold explained that the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust has made a commitment to establish a single integrated pathology service model. Currently, Basildon and Southend Hospital use Pathology First and there is an in-house service at Broomfield Hospital. External consultants are of the view that an integrated service will provide a better service to patients. It will change and simplify laboratory processes. It will not change access for patients and blood tests can still be obtained from a variety of locations. They are currently engaging with stakeholders. The intention is for a full business case to be taken to the Trust Board for approval by late Spring. If approved, a competitive market engagement process will be launched in June 2023, with the aim of completing this by Spring 2024. The aim will be to move to a new integrated service by the end of 2024. The procurement process aligns with the expiry of the contract with Pathology First which comes to an end in 2024.
The presentation was paused to allow for questions on Pathology services.
The Chair raised concern that if there was a problem at the one laboratory this could have problems for the whole of Essex.
Councillor Polley highlighted that she was very grateful that blood testing services had returned to South Ockendon and especially to Stephen Porter for making that happen. Councillor Polley noted that it was quite complicated to make an appointment for a blood test and when she had tried to book an appointment at South Ockendon this doesn’t come up as an option via Swift Queue.
Katie Arnold responded that the online booking system for blood tests is swift queue. Feedback has generally been positive about Swift Queue. However, when they started the phlebotomy service at Corringham, residents were finding it hard to find the location. This was fed back to pathology first and they corrected it. Katie Arnold stated that she will feed back to Pathology First the issues surrounding the South Ockendon option not showing on the website. They will also update their information about where you can get a blood test. The Thurrock Community Diagnostic Centre will also be offering phlebotomy services when it opens in Spring 2024. Thurrock Community Hospital does offer walk-in appointments too.
Councillor Sammons echoed Councillor Polley’s comments and she highlighted that she also did not find Swift Queue very efficient and the appointments offered were very delayed. It was easier to just drive to Thurrock Community hospital and use the walk-in service.
Councillor Pothecary highlighted that when she used Swift Queue the Thurrock locations seemed to be listed under Basildon which might be causing the problems. A separate Thurrock section would be much easier to use.
Katie Arnold agreed to feed back Councillor Pothecary’s comments.
Katie Arnold continued with the presentation on Community Diagnostic Centres (CDC’s). CDC’s are new one-stop shops for checks, tests and scans in the heart of communities to increase capacity and make services more accessible and convenient for patients. Public engagement has taken place and useful feedback has been received. The main themes were around requests for more early and late appointments and weekend appointments. Patients wanted to keep telephone booking as well as online apps, waiting times for diagnostic tests too long and Car parking. The feedback revealed that 75 % of patients travelled to appointments by car. The feedback will now be used in service designs. Katie Arnold thanked Thurrock Healthwatch who have assisted them with the public engagement exercise. Business cases have been developed for 3 CDC’s in mid and South Essex. One CDC will be located in Thurrock, one in Braintree and the third will be for the largest CDC which is planned for Pitsea. It is hoped a funding decision for this will be made this Spring. In the Pitsea location there will be endoscopy which will be the closest place to offer endoscopy for Thurrock residents. Appointments will be offered 7 days a week and for some services will run from 8.00am – 8.00pm.
Katie Arnold explained that it is planned for the Thurrock CDC to be situated where the Alistair Farquharson building is currently. A planning application has been submitted and a decision is expected in late April. It will be part refurbishment and part new-build extension. The aim is to have the centre open by Spring 2024 and to start construction work in late May.
The Chair commented that this is going to bring so much to Thurrock but he stated that he does worry about the parking and the traffic as it is in the middle of a housing estate.
Katie Arnold responded that they have consulted with the design team and car parking improvements will be made to the site. They have calculated the amount of extra staff and patients on site and are confident there will be sufficient parking on site. There is a plan to widen the internal road on the Thurrock Community Hospital site to accommodate larger vehicles.
Councillor Pothecary sought clarification on the location of the Grays IMC as it was understood this would be in the building where covid 19 vaccinations were held and this is the Alistair Farquharson building.
Katie Arnold confirmed that the CDC will be occupying the Alistair Farquharson centre and will take over all of that. The vaccination service has stopped and the building is currently empty. Other services are due to move over from Orsett and can go into the existing buildings or a new build element which attaches on to the CDC but this is also subject to funding approval and capital being available.
Councillor Polley referred to the planning application and noted that 12 parking spaces will be lost initially and then replaced with 32 car parking spaces. She raised concern that the car parking space area is where the Committee had been told the IMC would be situated.
Councillor Polley raised whether it would be beneficial for elderly patients who fall over to be better attending the CDC rather than Basildon Hospital A & E where they are often waiting in a corridor for a long time.
Katie Arnold confirmed that the plan is for the CDC not to be used for emergencies, it will be a ring- fenced diagnostic capacity for elected patients.
The Chair echoed Councillor Polley’s concerns that the CDC seems to be on the same footprint as the IMC.
Councillor Pothecary queried where in Pitsea is the CDC going to be located and if it will be near the train station as Grays has good train links to Pitsea. She also queried where the current closest endoscopy service for Thurrock residents is located.
Katie Arnold confirmed that the Pitsea location is currently confidential as it has other services in there. It is in a central location in Pitsea and has been chosen because of accessibility. It has good transport links for those local in Pitsea and Basildon too. The current Endoscopy services across Mid and South Essex Trust are in Eastwood , Southend and Braintree. Thurrock residents would go to Basildon hospital currently. It is hoped the extra endoscopy capacity provided by the Pitsea CDC will shorten waiting times.
Tiffany Hemming confirmed that the two projects (CDC and IMWC) are complimentary and allow for both to be on the same footprint. The plan is to re-purpose buildings there and also build some new buildings for the IMWC.
Councillor Polley requested that costings are provided at a future meeting.
Councillor Pothecary stated that when the IMWC’s were first proposed supposed they were supposed to be purpose built buildings but in reality what Grays is going to get is services flung across an existing site.
Tiffany Hemming responded that internal elements of the buildings will be purpose designed for services going into them. The IMWC will be in multiple buildings adjacent to each other.
The Chair highlighted that the important thing is that the services are being provided. He stated that is not what we were promised but we just need to get these services provided in our community.
Councillor Piccolo queried why there cannot be a terminal in the surgery where the patient can following their GP appointment go out into the reception area and book their blood test straight away in the surgery.
Katie Arnold said she would look into it.
The Chair thanked Katie for the presentation.