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Working flexibly across sites

Specialist Biomedical Scientist Kimberly C Lewis gives a guided tour of the clinical biochemistry facilities at Swansea.

Swansea Bay University Health Board laboratory medicine compromises a joint clinical biochemistry and haematology service for a population of approximately 400,000 across three main sites where there are laboratories – Morriston Hospital (Swansea), Singleton Hospital (Swansea) and Princess of Wales Hospital (POW) (Bridgend). There is a fourth hospital in the network at Neath/Port Talbot, which has no on-site laboratory and samples are transported to Morriston for analysis.

The laboratories provide a 24-hour diagnostic and advisory service to hospital clinical staff and general practitioners. The clinical biochemistry service includes general chemistry and immunoassay along with specialist testing encompassing toxicology and protein electrophoresis. The department is also one of the few reference laboratories that performs tests such as lipase and neuron-specific enolase blood tests, with an active research and development department.

Our clinical biochemistry service operates a hub-and-spoke model system; the acute tertiary hospital at Morriston acts as the main hub laboratory, while POW and Singleton are our satellite laboratories. About 100,000 samples are analysed annually in clinical biochemistry via this system, which is fully accredited by UKAS against ISO 15189.

The labs at POW and Singleton deal largely with inpatient activity, including electrolyte profile, liver function, bone profile and some immunoassays. Non-urgent samples are transported to Morriston from POW and Singleton sites. This means centralised tests – such as haematinics, thyroids and lipids – are routinely processed in Morriston only.

Our department has its own courier transport system where samples are transported regularly between sites. The singular transport network operated by the department allows a quicker and more effective turnaround of samples, regardless of the site at which the sample was received. The department also partners with Health Courier services and Blood Bikers that aid in transporting urgent samples 24/7.

The team at Swansea Bay laboratory medicine includes phlebotomists, support workers, drivers, multi- disciplinary trained associate practitioners and trainee biomedical scientists, HCPC-registered biomedical scientists, specialist biomedical scientists, section and training managers led by our higher management team, who are all committed to a single network system. Our department is one of the few laboratories that operates a joint laboratory medicine service using a single quality management system with a single EQA scheme, targeted performance and reference ranges, standardised equipment and SOPs in all laboratories, a single laboratory information management computer network and middleware across all three sites. This setup provides for network resilience where if one site fails, the work can be redistributed easily between sites, also allowing for trained staff to work on all three sites, providing cover at short notice and urgent out-of-hours cover to ensure continuity of our service to users.

Central to the department’s approach has always been not just producing and validating results, but having highly experienced and multi-disciplinary trained specialist biomedical scientists working in a flexible way across all sites, while being managed by a single service network.  


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