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Outside the Lab Profession, Training and education

The Fugacity of Pathology’s Capacity

How important is pathology? If you’re reading this, you no doubt understand how essential your role is in the clinical process, but as one of our previous features pointed out, pathologists can often be underappreciated by those not in the know (1). So any recognition of the value of pathology by those outside of the profession is certainly welcomed, even if it’s not for the right reasons.

A recent report by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) unfortunately makes uncomfortable reading. While it highlights the crucial role of pathology in cancer diagnosis and its high value to patient care, it comes with a big warning: pathologists will not be able to cope with the growing demands for their services if it investment is not made, quality (2).

Over the next few years, CRUK predicts that waiting times for patients will increase, and pathology may become more expensive for providers and commissioners. They expect the different branches of pathology to become more unified, but also to suffer from staffing capacity issues that will obviously impact routine work. 

However, the future doesn’t need to be bleak. The report makes nine recommendations to improve their forecast, including National Health Service (NHS) support of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (UK discussion forums between health and care leaders, about local populations), investment in infrastructure to support digital pathology, greater molecular pathology involvement in solid tumor diagnostics, and more.

The Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) welcomed the report. According to President Suzy Lishman, “It recognizes the central role of pathology in the care of patients with cancer and also highlights the serious consequences of failing to act immediately to maximize efficiency, optimize workforce, future-proof the service and improve understanding of pathology provision.” She went on to say, “We are in complete agreement with these observations and have set out our commitments and priorities to enable pathology services to meet future demand and ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care” (3). The College cites commitments such as working with the NHS, continuing to increase molecular pathology in training curricula, working with Health Education England to increase training places, and much more. RCPath also urges other organizations to play their part in helping pathology address the coming supply-demand gap.

With CRUK’s report, RCPath hopes that the call to action has been sounded – and that the field can flourish if pathology organizations band together to meet future challenges.

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  1. M Schubert, “The last respite of the socially inept?”, The Pathologist, 3, 18–25 (2014). Available at:
  2. Cancer Research UK, “Testing times to come? An evaluation of pathology capacity across the UK” (2016). Available at: Accessed December 7, 2016.
  3. The Royal College of Pathologists, “RCPath response to ‘Testing times to come? report” |(2016). Available at: Accessed December 7, 2016.
About the Author
William Aryitey

My fascination with science, gaming, and writing led to my studying biology at university, while simultaneously working as an online games journalist. After university, I travelled across Europe, working on a novel and developing a game, before finding my way to Texere. As Associate Editor, I’m evolving my loves of science and writing, while continuing to pursue my passion for gaming and creative writing in a personal capacity.

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