Pathology Blueprint Programme

The Pathology Blueprint Programme will explore options for moving the management of laboratory services from each Trust into a single regional pathology management structure, along with the entirety of the NIBTS, and the functions of the NI Pathology Network.

Message from Programme Director

Thanks to the significant input from our stakeholders, we are making good progress against the key milestones set at the start of the Programme in January 2022.

We are really keen to continue to engage you in this work and, at our upcoming round of engagement events in June 2024, you have the opportunity to contribute your thoughts and ideas about the draft design that has been created with stakeholders for an HSC Pathology Special agency.

Further information on how to join these events is in the “Upcoming Stakeholder Engagement events' section of this webpage.

After consultation in June 2024, the design will be updated based on feedback received,  before it goes to Pathology Blueprint Programme Board later in 2024 for approval in principle along with a business case, an outline transition plan and associated impact assessments.

Following a 12 week public consultation on the Equality Impact Assessment, it will be for the Minister for Health to decide whether to transition to a Pathology Special Agency. This would also be dependent on availability of funding.

It is really important that you attend and participate in the engagement events if at all possible, as it will help us ensure that your views are considered.

Karin Jackson

Blueprint Programme Director

Chief Medical Officer’s welcome to the programme

Professor Sir Michael McBride Chief Medical Officer, DoH

As the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) of the Blueprint Programme, I am delighted work is now underway to design the future management structure and operating model for HSC pathology services.

The pandemic showed just how important sustainable pathology services are to our health system. In recognition of this, last autumn the Minister  announced a £40m investment in a regional Laboratory information system (LIMS) and published a policy statement setting out the future vision for pathology services, including the establishment of the Blueprint Programme to plan for a new regional pathology management structure. Alongside the important work taking place through the NI Pathology Network, these developments will create a strong foundation for a sustainable world class pathology service for HSC patients well into the future.

The Department’s Performance and Transformation Executive Board has given its collective support for this work, and I hope you will engage wholeheartedly in the programme as it moves forward. The Department recognises the scale of change in pathology as well as in the wider system, we will take account of that in our planning, but we must retain the strong focus on delivering our high-quality business as usual during this time of change.

Professor Sir Michael McBride

Chief Medical Officer, DoH

Pathology Network Board welcomes Blueprint Programme


Jennifer Welsh, Chair, NI Pathology Network

Pathology Network Board

At Pathology Network Board on 22nd April 2022, the establishment of the Blueprint Programme was welcomed. Network Chair since 2010, Jennifer Welsh described how the Pathology Network has had an important role in driving improvement in pathology services since its inception in 2009: “we are now striding forward with major developments that will enable us to provide the best possible pathology service for patients, donors and service users into the future”.

The Network has been and remains a critical enabler for the NI Pathology Information Management Systems (NIPIMS) Programme. In the same way, it will enable the Blueprint Programme to engage effectively with pathology stakeholders and services in the Blueprint design. The Network welcomes its engagement by the Blueprint Programme and looks forward to taking part in the stakeholder engagement events in May and June.

We in the Network will continue with our current workplan, because the new management structure will adopt and use the products that the network is currently developing. These include new career and training opportunities for staff, standardisation and more regional approaches to how we work across the spectrum of pathology service delivery to improve quality. The Network will strive to ensure pathology services are at the heart of shaping their future.

This programme also spells a time of change for the Network, since its functions will become part of the new regional pathology management  structure. The opportunity to embed the highly effective multi-disciplinary, multi-professional regional planning and working that has evolved through the Network will greatly enable the speed with which the new management structure, once designed and approved, may become operational.

Jennifer Welsh, Chair,
NI Pathology Network

Virtual Engagement Events

In June 2024 we are consulting on a draft tom for the design of a HSC Pathology special agency that has been developed by stakeholders through the bpp.

Your attendance and participation at these events is important and will help us ensure that your views are considered.

Upcoming Stakeholder Engagement Events

Who is invited?

All hsc staff, in particular Pathology and Corporate staff, pathology service users in primary & secondary care, professional bodies, trade unions or anyone else who is a stakeholder in HSC Pathology services.

Ongoing Programme Development

Having now completed the Options Appraisal Process, the Workstreams and Design Team will be asked to assist in the production work on design of a high-level target operating model for a Pathology Special Agency.

The Workstreams and Design Team will attend a ‘Kick-Off’ meeting in early October where the subsequent tasks will be proposed by the Blueprint Team. Then in October and November the Workstreams will create the description utilising a format that describes the ‘Current State’ within their Business Area/Function and organisation, then what the plans or options could be and how they could work within a new Special Agency and finally what the ‘Proposed State’ could look like. The Design Team will then further analyse these findings and check the proposal is correct and factors in risks and the Benefits already identified.

This work will form part of the proposal that will be submitted to the Minister for Health and the DoH for approval as to what the new Pathology structure will be.

Design Team

Having reached a decision on the proposed management structure for NI Pathology being in the form of an Agency, the next phase of work for the Design Team will begin in October. The emphasis will be on finalising design details for the proposed High level Target Operating Model and submit to the Blueprint Programme Board for approval in November. Details being discussed will be relevant to identifying the current operating state of Pathology in Northern Ireland then relating that to what a future state could potentially be.