The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) defined the process of care for haematological malignancies in Improving outcomes in haematological cancers. The manual in 2003. The most challenging recommendation has been the requirement to develop integrated laboratory services for accurate diagnosis. This is an aim that has not been fully achieved. The unified concept of haematological malignancy is recent and based on an understanding of the cellular pathology of the bone marrow and immune systems. Historical UK pathology practice has previously resulted in the separation of laboratory haematology from histopathology and of liquid and tissue specimens. Proposals for reintegration and centralization with specialist-led, centralized diagnostic and reporting services challenge the fragmented historical model. Accuracy and certainty of diagnosis remains problematic, particularly for lymphomas, with evidence that the accuracy of diagnosis is slowly improving but still only approaches 85%. There is a potentially significant human and financial cost of diagnostic errors. No nationwide, validated and comparable epidemiology/population-based data exist for accurate and complete ascertainment of new cases of haematological cancer, service planning or clinical outcomes monitoring. This article examines the original rationale behind the NICE guidance and outlines the key components and processes of an integrated diagnostic service.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Limited.