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International Childhood Cancer Day

International Childhood Cancer Day is a global campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer. In support, we are raising awareness of how and why labs get involved in Harvey’s Gang. Here’s Tamara Hanson’s story.

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The Blood Science Laboratory at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh (RHSC) was the first in Scotland to launch the Harvey’s Gang initiative. Young patients from the RHSC were given the opportunity to visit the paediatric laboratory in August 2018 until March 2020, when the laboratory closed its doors during the COVID pandemic.

The RHSC’s lab tours allowed patients to learn more about their healthcare by helping them understand what happens to their blood samples. We provided the “missing link” between blood collection and blood results by hosting visits to our “secret area” of the hospital and youngsters got to see and experience all the fascinating work behind the scenes.

The RHSC Harvey’s Gang tours were individually tailored to the interests, needs and age of the patients. We devised various fun and interactive activities to engage our lab visitors. They were a rewarding experience for everyone involved. They empowered patients and their families by increasing knowledge of their treatment and the laboratory staff enjoyed the opportunity to meet the families and show them around their labs. It was also a powerful reminder to the staff that we are dealing with patients, not just blood samples.

The initiative generated interest from the media. Articles that featured in local newspapers, STV News, Facebook and other media enabled us to reach a wider audience so that more families could benefit. Harvey’s Gang also became a great advertisement, promoting the visibility of the work of biomedical scientists and biomedical support workers. The RHSC lab team were also proud to be awarded Team of the Month in January 2019 for their Harvey’s Gang work.

Blood transfusion laboratories at the Royal Infirmary Hospital are managed by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and they were happy to announce that they hosted their first ever tour on 21 December 2023, welcoming Harris May (aged 14) for a behind-the-scenes tour.

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Harris has a keen interest in science and wanted to come and visit the lab before his phlebotomy appointment and discover the role the laboratories play. He got to meet the laboratory staff carrying out their critical work, watched how the blood donations arrive and are registered, processed and stored. He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. I especially liked the bit where we saw the slides of different animal blood.”

At NHS Lothian, blood science disciplines have always been passionate about continuing Harvey’s Gang tours. Blood science laboratories at the Royal Infirmary Hospital are working together with SNBTS laboratories to collaborate and run them in the years ahead to help and support children and their families with their healthcare journey. Harvey’s Gang has an exciting role to play in the future at NHS Lothian and is going to have a positive impact on everyone involved.  

Tamara Hanson is Blood Science Reception Manager at NHS Lothian.

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