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My lab: The laboratory on the island

Chief Biomedical Scientist in Biochemistry Charlie Houston gives a guided tour of Chemical Pathology at Noble’s Hospital on the Isle of Man.

Blien Vie Noa – Happy new Year in Manx Gaelic, from the Chemical Pathology lab at Noble’s hospital on the Isle of Man. Isle of Man – where’s that, you might ask? The Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom; it’s an island and self-governing British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We have our own health care system – Manx Care – and total independence from the UK NHS.

With the island’s population being 84,000 we do not have the large workload of a district general hospital lab, but receive 800 patients’ requests daily from primary and secondary care. We have a unique and diverse working environment that comes with an island setting.

The Chemical Pathology laboratory is situated in the relatively new Noble’s Hospital, which is situated in a semi-rural setting on the outskirts of Douglas.

The department offers all the assays that you would find in a district general hospital biochemistry laboratory setting, however, we also perform a range of specialist investigations due to our island location. Our repertoire includes routine renal, bone and liver function, cardiac assessment, tumour marker testing, therapeutic drug monitoring, drugs of abuse, xanthochromia, osmolality and specific proteins.

We have just celebrated one year post-implementation of our first-in-British Isles Roche Cobas Pro analytical systems, which consist of pre-analytics with online decapping, aliquoting, sealing and short-term storage, CCM track system, two ISE modules, two c503 photometric modules and two e 801 immunoassay modules. As is the tradition in our lab they all have nicknames: pre-analytics – Odin, line 1 – Loki, line 2 – Thor.

It has been a challenging year for us with a steep learning curve of new analysers and the introduction of infinity middleware – we previously had no middleware. Our next big challenge will come this year with implementation of a new pan-pathology LIMS.

In addition to all the routine assays available for the Cobas Pro, we have implemented customer development channels for faecal immunochemical testing and faecal calprotectin, which, as with any non-manufacturer assays, have taken a while to implement and verify. For our non-routine assays we have: Waters Evo TQD LC-MS system for DOA, Sebia Minicap and Hydra Sys for electrophoresis, Macroduct for sweat testing, Osmo1 for osmolality and Bio-UV spectrophotometer with xanthochromia measurement system.

We are a small, friendly, forward-thinking, and dedicated team of seven biomedical scientists and three medical laboratory assistants in Chemical Pathology, within an overarching Pathology department of 55 staff. As there are no clinical scientists or chemical pathologists, all the biomedical scientists working in the department must work in a highly autonomous manner, acting as the first line of response.

We support the seven newly installed Radiometer ABL90 FLEX PLUS blood gas analysers within the hospital.

If this article has sparked your interest, we currently have a vacancy for a band 6 Specialist Biomedical Scientist (Biochemistry) advertised, with a closing date of 30/01/2022. It’s a great place to live and work. For more info, visit  


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