Often a ‘backroom’ service, the pathology laboratory has been at the heart of some amazing working during the pandemic and staff in the team have started to create a real innovation hub at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.
When patients attend hospital, most rarely know what the pathology department does. But it’s involved in so many different clinical areas and analyses thousands of samples every day. From getting a patient a more accurate diagnosis, saving them a trip to hospital, or identifying a disease or condition earlier, the small changes this team makes in the background can make a huge difference to patient care. Due to the progress of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, and its future potential, it is clear that these tools will revolutionise what the NHS can offer to patients.
One recent innovation saw the pathology team producing a colorectal cancer screening programme to detect trace amounts of blood in stools. Rather than patients having to attend hospital to provide a sample, they can simply use a home-testing kit to perform themselves and then drop it off at their GP, who sends it in to the hospital for testing.
The team are also developing a PSA home-sampling pack for patients with prostate cancer. If successful, these kits will allow this large cohort to avoid a trip to hospital, which will reduce risk, make monitoring more convenient and, as a result, improve their care.
These innovations have aided what has been a challenging time for the pathology department where the priority has been to keep the service running smoothly and reducing unnecessary hospital site footfall.
Jamie Osborne is a Senior Clinical Biochemist at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and has led a number of service development projects, from the introduction of new analysers and tests, to service reconfigurations and a redesign of quality control procedures. A future rising star, Jamie is one of the Trust’s innovation fellows working in the pathology biochemistry team, dealing with the analytes in samples that help a patient’s diagnostic pathway.
Earlier this year Jamie was awarded the NHS Chief Scientific Officer’s Rising Star Award for his work on AI-augmented antenatal screening trials for Down’s syndrome. The full results of this study have not yet been published but initial findings are overwhelmingly positive.
Jamie said “The sheer scope for innovation in laboratory medicine is immeasurable. Our work at Bolton is mostly grass-roots research and development at the moment, with the intention of building these new methods into national use over the next couple of years. We have a real opportunity at Bolton to be at the forefront of an innovation revolution that the whole country can benefit from.”
“The improvements in the pathology department are radically helping to improve our service to patients. The science that goes behind us transforming care and improved outcomes through biochemistry for people really helps us to maintain our edge, particularly when the epidemiologically area of science still remains at the forefront of international news.”