Aims Electron microscopy (EM) remains essential to delivering several specialist areas of diagnosis, especially the interpretation of native renal biopsies. However, there is anecdotal evidence of EM units struggling to survive, for a variety of reasons. The authors sought to obtain objective evidence of the extent and the causes of this problem.
Methods An online survey was undertaken of Fellows of the Royal College of Pathologists who use EM in diagnosis.
Results A significant number of EM units anticipate having to close and hence outsource their EM work in the coming years. Yet most existing units are working to full capacity and would be unable to take on the substantial amounts of extra work implied by other units outsourcing their needs. Equipment and staffing are identified by most EM units as the major barriers to growth and are also the main reasons cited for units facing potential closure.
Conclusions In the current financial climate it seems unlikely that units will be willing to make the large investment in equipment and staff needed to take on extra work, unless they can be reasonably confident of an acceptable financial return as a result of increased external referral rates. The case is thus made for a degree of national coordination of the future provision of this specialist service, possibly through the National Commissioning Group or the new National Commissioning Board. Without this, the future of diagnostic EM services in the UK is uncertain. Its failure would pose a threat to good patient care.
- Electron microscopy
- service provision
- genitourinary pathology
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Competing interests Both authors are engaged in the delivery of an electron microscopy service for an NHS provider.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The raw data from this study is available on request from .