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World leader in diagnostics

IBMS Chief Executive David Wells looks at a promising future for the profession and the support that is needed.

With the launch of HM Government’s Life Sciences Vision and its mantra “Build Back Better”, I’ve been thinking about how the IBMS can make sure that this vision becomes a force for positive change in the profession.

The Prime Minister said that he wants to make the UK the best place in Europe to invest in life sciences – and highly skilled life science jobs – making us the world leader in diagnostics. I can’t remember a previous Prime Minister even mentioning our profession before now. The importance of our work has truly been recognised – and we must try to make sure that the changes that come benefit us all.

Roche Diagnostics’ recent report, The Future of Diagnostics Delivery in the UK, pointed out that 95% of all clinical pathways rely on patient access to pathology services, but that funding for pathology only accounts for 2% of the current NHS budget. I hope that any future investment will reflect the performance, outcomes and competence of our workforce and begin to redress this imbalance.

Whether in healthcare, industry or academia, we are all a key part in what comes next. The IBMS will continue to inform and promote best practice at the highest levels. This means championing scalable diagnostics for a wide range of infectious pathogens and earlier, smarter diagnosis to predict and control the spread and outcome of any disease.

The workforce also needs expansion. Any future vision must prioritise increases in workforce supply and development. Adequately staffed laboratories with highly skilled, registered professionals are essential and they must also be approved for training the pipeline of future scientists.

Another priority will be a big data, pro-active diagnostic approach. In order to achieve this, all new infrastructure must be able to integrate with public health and healthcare systems, from social care to secondary care – linking the National Institute for Health Protection, UK Health Security Agency and NHS for better patient outcomes.

Over the last 18 months, our molecular diagnostic capability has gone from being able to process 300,000 molecular microbiology tests per year in England, to performing that number in a day – and this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be done with well-planned investment.

I hope the Prime Minister is serious about this vision – and that the people who carry it out listen to those who understand the complexity of maintaining our world-class professional standards.

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