Quality Problems Plague Britain’s Largest Privatized Laboratory

The Guardian newspaper reported a decline in quality at the Kings College Hospital trust and the St. Thomas Hospital trust’s recently privatized pathology services.

The report cited in the article found an increase in clinical ”incidents” in the first year of the for-profit laboratories operations, and failure to reach “ agreed targets for the “turnaround times” for processing pathology tests 46 times in 2011, with “critical risk levels” breached 14 times.”

Serco, the multinational outsourcing corporation involved in the private laboratory, promised to upgrade the computer system which has also not gone well.

“In January 2012 a patient was given “inappropriate blood” when their medical history was not “flagged” up by the system. In May 2012 patients’ kidney damage results were calculated incorrectly after a “software fault”. The September 2011 performance review complains of the pre-operative blood transfusion interface failing at the same time every week… (GSTS’, the public –private-partnership running the for-profit lab) annual accounts show £2.7 million had to be written off in 2011 due to “potential clinical uncertainty” caused by its new [computer] system.”

The new for-profit lab has continued to lose money.  The joint venture lost 6 million pounds in 2011 which had to be covered by payments from the public hospitals involved in the partnership.  In other words, funding was taken from other public programs to pay for losses in the privatized laboratory services.

GSTS, the joint venture running the labs, is a partnership between Serco and the two hospital trusts. Serco is a British transnational company with revenues of 4.3 billion pounds, a 2009 profit of 258 million pounds and 70,000 employees. Government contracts account for most of its income.

While it is still early in the process, the largest laboratory privatization in Britain has started out poorly.

The information was uncovered by Corporate Watch, an organization dedicated to critical corporate research and is  “based on Freedom of Information disclosures, leaked documents, interviews with staff and an analysis of the company’s accounts.” Their report and the coverage in The Guardian can be found at:



Explore posts in the same categories: Funding-Cost For-profit Delivery, Quality, United Kingdom

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