17 September 2013
Changes are to be introduced to the out-of-hours pathology service at Jersey General Hospital.
The Health and Social Services Department (HSS) regularly reviews, updates and develops its services at the General Hospital. Its latest review found that whilst the current out-of-hours service has been in existence for many years and provides accurate test results, compared to elsewhere the service is seen as slow, old-fashioned and extremely expensive.
Current out-of-hours service
The out-of-hours pathology service provides diagnostic tests at night and at weekends, ensuring round-the-clock access to test results. Traditionally these services have been provided by scientists on an on-call rota in addition to their regular hours, and they have received a supplementary allowance in addition to their normal salary.
The current agreement for this service expired in 2011 but arrangements were extended to the end of September 2013 so that discussions and negotiations with the staff and union about a new agreement could take place.
The wage for this out-of-hours pathology work has proved to be in excess of that paid to staff for similar services in the UK and is considerably more than what is paid to any other medical group that provides similar on-call services. To reflect this, negotiations have been underway to realign the pay levels.
The biomedical staff that currently provide the service have all rejected the negotiating team's final offer. To ensure the continuity of a safe and effective service, the Pathology Department had had no alternative but to proceed with a contingency plan.
Scientists recruited from UK
A team of six highly experienced laboratory scientists have been recruited from the UK and will run the out-of-hours service for an initial period of three months whilst further service redesign can take place. Throughout September they will be working with the current staff and undertaking training.
It is important to note that this is a temporary arrangement and current users of the service will experience no change to the availability or quality of the service. These new arrangements also have the full support of the hospital's senior doctors.
A spokesperson for HSS said the project would bring the current service up to date, provide better patient experience, a higher quality of service to clinicians and greater value for the Island’s healthcare investment.