25 May 2021

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a new report on pathology diagnostic services.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a new report - NICE impact diagnostic pathology.

The report found that:

  • 1.2 billion pathology tests are estimated to be carried out each year in England
  • around 95% of clinical pathways rely on access to pathology services.

Focussing on NICE guidance where uptake data was available, the report covers the following:

  • Why focus on diagnostic pathology?
  • How NICE identify and support adoption of new diagnostics
  • Uptake of NICE-recommended pathology diagnostics
  • Diagnostic pathology during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Improving pathology data
  • What is NICE doing next?

Key findings from the report

The report looks at the uptake of five NICE recommended pathology diagnostics:

Two of these were originally identified by as rapid uptake products:

  • high-sensitivity troponin tests
  • placental growth factor (PIGF)-based tests for suspected pre-eclampsia.

The other three are:

  • Faecal immunochemical test (FIT) for colorectal cancer
  • Prenatal testing for fetal RHD genotype
  • Natriuretic peptide testing for heart failure.

A summary of key findings is available here.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant disruption of healthcare including pathology services.

Data between March and June 2020 showed that diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, fell by 80% in primary care compared to the previous year, but have since increased.

Dr Mike Osborn, President, The Royal College of Pathologists said:

`Diagnostic pathology impacts on all areas of healthcare. In particular, pathology tests play an important role in the prevention and early detection of diseases such as cancer. Early detection improves the chances of successful treatment, saves lives and is more cost-effective for the NHS.

We owe it to our patients to provide a comprehensive, fast, accurate, pathology service.

Pathology-related guidance produced by NICE is helping address the diagnostic backlog caused by the pandemic, by signposting ways in which specialist services can be maintained while reducing the risks from COVID-19.’