THE PRIVATE firm which will deal with our blood samples should they move to Bedford has spoken out in its defence.

The Echo revealed last week GSTS Pathology is not fully accredited with Clinical Pathology Accreditation to carry out blood tests at Bedford Hospital and other failings were found with its services last year.

GSTS is a venture between private firm Serco and King’s College and St Thomas’ hospitals.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Corporate Watch, a not-for-profit research group, found 400 clinical incidents in 2011 – including losing and mislabelling samples – at St Thomas' labs.

It also failed to meet the agreed monthly turnaround times for tests 46 times in 2011, with ‘critical risk levels’ breached 14 times..

Now the firm has responded to the Echo’s questions from last week stating: “Our pathology laboratories at Bedford Hospital are either accredited by CPA, or presently awaiting assessment by CPA.

“Importantly any new service that GSTS might in the future provide to meet the needs of local GPs would be the subject of a new CPA inspection.”

The firm says it has acknowledged that the first two years of the partnership from 2008 were ‘operationally difficult and that the necessary change did not happen as quickly as the partners had hoped’.

However it says the quality of its services was not affected and it continues to be comparable to pathology services across the NHS.

Richard Jones, Chief Executive of GSTS, said: “There were operational difficulties in the early period of GSTS. However, recent clinical, operational and financial performance make us confident that we have turned a corner. Modernisation of pathology is a national priority and GSTS exists to support the NHS in achieving that.”

Dr Jonathan Edgeworth, Consultant Microbiologist at Guys and St Thomas’Trust and Medical Director of GSTS, said: “My prime concerns are the safety of patients and the quality of our service. Our clinicians and scientists are dedicated to service improvement, and this includes actively investigating any incident to identify the cause and put in place measures to prevent recurrence. The quality of our service bears comparison with any other in the NHS.”