Human Medicine:

Pathology laboratory becomes the first in the UK to support remote plate reading  

Published: 15th June 2022

A pathology laboratory is leading the way in speeding up access to patient care and treatment after becoming the first in the UK to enable remote microbiology plate reading, thanks to a £1.2 million investment from SYNLAB.

Pathology First is a joint venture between SYNLAB and the NHS. Formed in 2014 with Basildon University Hospital and Southend University Hospital, it has a state-of-the-art hub laboratory in Basildon, undertaking routine testing, and two hospital-based ‘Essential Service Laboratories’ focused on urgent clinical laboratory tests. All three laboratories are operated by SYNLAB which has introduced the new system offering greater flexibility and scalability in how it provides testing. This will help to improve both clinical ways of working, and patient care in the longer-term.

The new system gives microbiologists the unique opportunity to review samples within NHS laboratories from wherever they are in the UK. It also gives specialist biomedical scientists working from home the ability to read plates and report back to laboratory-based colleagues.

It is hoped that this new cutting-edge system will help more clinicians access pathology for their patients, increase capacity within microbiology services, support the NHS as it addresses post-pandemic backlogs and, ultimately, help more people to access care.

In October 2021 a dedicated microbiology team was recruited at the hub to provide services to GP practices in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham. This was in response to the new pathology partnership SYNLAB formed with Guy’s and St Thomas’, and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts to deliver and transform NHS pathology services across South East London.

At this time we are reading urine plates remotely using the new system, with the aim of reading all plates going through the analyser by July. This is going to be a game-changer for our industry as this will include wounds, MRSAs, blood cultures and more.
Our scientists could become the first to read plates for any UK or international laboratory enabled with Synapsys informatics. We believe this could lead to faster turnaround times for patients and, as the services expands, more plates can be read without the need to expand laboratory space.
By allowing staff to work remotely and making best use of our workplace, we are also supporting SYNLAB’s commitment to reducing our impact on the environment.

Emma Parker, Operations Manager of Microbiology at Pathology First

This has been an amazing project, executed in an incredibly short time frame. It exemplifies our ability to respond at pace, thanks to our transformational and scientific expertise. We are also delighted at SYNLAB to be able to provide the NHS with access to pathology services which are fit for the future.

Stephen Tuddenham, Managing Director, Hospitals SYNLAB UK & Ireland

It is fantastic to see Pathology First at the forefront of laboratory innovation, bringing the latest technology to our expert team of scientists. I am particularly proud that we have achieved this during the pandemic, in which has we have faced unprecedented challenges. The new system provides greater flexibility and demonstrates how we are always trying to find new and better ways of working. We also expect this latest initiative to allow us to offer additional service capacity to support the NHS locally, as well as elsewhere across the country.

Jill Elliott, General Manager of Pathology First
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