CAMPAIGNERS fighting for the future of Dorset County Hospital’s pathology services have highlighted comments from an expert claiming it could deliver a ‘flagship cancer service’.

The Dorset Health Campaign has been fighting for the pathology services to be retained at the Dorchester hospital as bosses look at options for the future of the service.

Members from the group celebrated the ‘path lab’ being part of the NHS for the last 66 years at an event in Dorchester town centre on Saturday, and told how they wanted to see it kept in public ownership.

They handed out birthday cakes and encouraged shoppers to put their names to a protest petition.

The threat to the laboratory comes as it has been developing as a centre of excellence for tissue analysis in the development of target drugs for cancer patients, including malignant melanoma and colorectal cancer, in recent years.

Scheme director for the UK National Equality Assessment Scheme for Immunocytochem-istry and In-Situ Hybridisation (UKNEQAS-ICC&ISH) Keith Miller was invited to the hospital’s histopathology team by senior consultant Dr Corrado D’Arrigo some years ago.

He said: “When I visited the department, I found a well co-ordinated team of pathologists working to very high standards and willing to improve the service further by developing new tests and bringing in new technology.

“I was so impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication that I decided to help them find sponsors and help facilitated this venture.

“I managed to get an agreement with the Dorset County Hospital administration and set-up a testing centre within the department of histopathology.”

Mr Miller said that a sponsor was already in place, Roche Tissue Diagnostics, and there were plans to bring in more diagnostic and pharmaceutical partners in due course.

He added: “The technology that is available to us through this arrangement is already, as mentioned, having a significant and positive impact to patient care. But there is so much more to come, much more.

“Prostate cancer testing at the Dorchester laboratory is among the best in the UK and lung and gastric cancers are already next on the list for further study.

“Much of this cannot of course be achieved without the support and hard work of all the staff of the histopathology department as well as the surgical and oncological teams at DCH. “I hope that the commissioner of cancer services in the region will take an interest in the leading edge work that is carried out at DCH because I believe that they have a unique opportunity to commission a flagship cancer service for the region that will be one of the best in the NHS.”

A DCH spokesman said: “Mr Miller is connected with Roche and has a commercial interest.

“He is not privy to all the information concerning the pathology department.

“This is just his opinion and he doesn’t speak on behalf of Dorset County Hospital or the pathology department.”