Proposing a new future for pathology in Aotearoa

Over many decades, Aotearoa’s pathology laboratory sector has served our communities well. Through the former District Health Board system, funded pathology providers including Awanui Labs, Pathlab and Medlab Central held contracts with individual DHBs to service a community in a defined region.

However, what we see today after many years, is the structure has produced a range of geographical and service inconsistencies for Kiwis.

“As part of the health system reforms, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make changes that will offer consistent, patient-centred, smart, agile and appropriately resourced pathology laboratory services where public and private providers partner effectively towards a common goal,” says Awanui Chief Executive Anoop Singh.

“That is why Awanui Group, with endorsement from the other funded-sector laboratory providers Pathlab and Medlab Central, have developed a position paper on what we believe the pathology sector needs to do and look like to deliver these aspirations of a consistent, well-resourced and patient-centred service,” says Anoop.

A position paper from the funded sector

The Future of Pathology position paper focuses on four key areas which will have the most impact for patients and for our workforce.

“We’ve recommended a series of changes which cover service delivery, the pathology workforce, sector structure, and models of funding.  These are broad topic areas, but there are some basic principles we need to get right, for example everyone working off the same test list and being held to same KPIs,” says Anoop.

Anoop says if you look at the sector today you will find different expectations of the laboratory provider between regions, different outcomes for patients, and duplication of services, which introduces clinical risk.

“We see a key to preventing post-code healthcare is uniform testing with nationally consistent standards providing consistent service outcomes for patients and clinicians – irrespective of location.”

“Better coordination of public and private laboratories will prevent duplication and reduce costs while improving the range and scope of services for hospitals and communities in regions that currently don’t have them.

“And finally, we need long-term sustainable funding models to enable investment planning across all areas of laboratory services, including funding a well-trained and sustainable workforce, service innovation, and ensuring NZ can access the best diagnostic tools available around the world,” says Anoop.

The funded sector’s position is presented as a high-level view. The summary is below, and the complete sector position paper can be found here.  

Service: A nationally consistent approach and standard of performance, designed with patients in mind.  
We support:  

  • A nationally aligned approach to patient-empowered services,  
  • Nationally consistent test lists, definitions, and standards, 
  • National performance metrics and service delivery KPIs applied to the whole sector.

Workforce: A well-trained, and sustainable workforce with lifelong careers.  
We support:   

  • National pay scale for lab workers,  
  • National strategic partnerships for recruitment and training, 
  • National strategy for attracting a more diverse workforce.  

Structure: An efficient national sector structure, consistent on who delivers what and where.  
We support:  

  • Establishment of national laboratory governance,  
  • Unify laboratory services where appropriate to prevent service duplication and better utilise existing resources, 
  • Ensure long-term sustainable contract periods to enable investment planning across all aspects of the laboratory service.  

Funding: A long-term sustainable funding model that caters for current and future needs.   
We support:  

  • Building flexibility into capacity funding models for routine automated testing,  
  • Complex and new testing is funded as a fee-for-service,  
  • Specific funding for scientific, technical, and service innovation.

 The position-on-a-page document which presents our views on the current state of each of the above and what we want our future to look like is available here on our website  

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