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Congress: this is it!

With Congress 2017 now upon us, IBMS Deputy Chief Executive Sarah May gives a taster of some of the presentations.

Over the months I have tried to capture the content and experience that is Congress on these pages, but I can never do justice to the reality. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that Congress represents an unparalleled CPD opportunity and everyone will be aware that this autumn the HCPC will be auditing the CPD of its biomedical scientist registrants. 

To help delegates manage their CPD during Congress, everyone will have a CPD record booklet in their bag where you can log the lectures attended and note what you have learned as part of your reflective practice. Members of our Education team will also be on the IBMS stand throughout Congress to answer your questions. There is still time to book your place at Congress, or you can pay on the day if forward scheduling is too difficult. 

I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues again at Congress but in the meantime, although it’s impossible to reflect the sheer range of topics, here is just a taster of some of the talks. Enjoy!


Securing the future of the NHS: Sustainability and transformation plans – opening plenary

The NHS is one of Britain’s proudest achievements and today faces some of its biggest challenges. Staff continue to do an outstanding job, treating record numbers of patients and there is no question that there is a desire to protect our NHS. 

To achieve this, we must allow it to change and continually improve. This keynote presentation explores the changes that are forming part of the biggest reorganisation of NHS services. Proposals have been published for every part of England. Collectively, we must now help to develop and shape them and deliver an NHS that is right for today and tomorrow.


Challenges and factors affecting the use of molecular techniques in cellular pathology

Molecular biology has revolutionised clinical diagnostics in the analysis of patient samples. Molecular testing is now aiding disease prognosis and helping to determine appropriate therapies. These are all important aspects in the new era of precision medicine. This comes with its challenges at a technical level, as well as in the interpretation of the results and handling of data. Therefore, a number of caveats must be taken into consideration and will be discussed in this talk.


Screening and diagnosis of inherited metabolic disorders 

Inherited metabolic disorders (IMDs) are a heterogeneous collection of diseases caused by genetic mutations affecting an enzyme, transporter or other protein involved in a metabolic process. Individually they are relatively rare, but IMDs can present with varied and non-specific symptoms. Therefore, samples from patients presenting with these relatively common symptoms are often sent to metabolic laboratories to exclude an IMD. The analytical, interpretative and clinical aspects of the assays used will be discussed, as well as an insight into the more specialised tests to help diagnose and monitor IMDs. 


Obesity: medicine and science 

Obesity is a risk factor for a range of illnesses, from type 2 diabetes to gynaecological cancer. It is often portrayed as simply the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. However, the physiology underlying the body’s weight control mechanisms are fundamental to understanding both the cause and effective treatment of this condition. This talk will address the science underlying both obesity and its current medical and surgical treatment. 


Apprenticeships - what training managers need to know?

This year the buzzword is “apprenticeship”, but what does this mean for biomedical science? This presentation will examine the pros and cons of apprenticeships in the context of biomedical support staff and registered biomedical scientists. It will provide an overview of apprenticeship standards and examine how these fit in with current options for development. Crucially, it will look at the perceived advantages and disadvantages for employers and students and will challenge you with the question: Is it worth the extra effort?


The challenges of assessing management competence

This presentation tackles the issue of management competence. As a manager and leader, you are expected to know and carry out multiple tasks covering vast subject areas. We get to lead, to motivate, to inspire, to nurture, to develop, to shape and determine our future. We get the chance to change lives for working teams and for individuals. It’s not always easy, yet we know we can do it. But how is our capability, knowledge, skill and understanding assessed and demonstrated? How do we demonstrate to those who don’t know, that we can do it, and what happens when we don’t? 


Emergency morphology

Emergency morphology refers to the need to examine a blood film in emergency situations, in order to validate abnormal blood counts and provide a provisional or definitive diagnosis that permits correct emergency management. Conditions that require urgent diagnosis include acute leukaemia (particularly acute promyelocytic leukaemia and cases with leucostasis), aggressive lymphomas (particularly Burkitt’s lymphoma), malaria and conditions characterised by thrombocytopenia, microangiopathic haemolytic anaemia, or both.


How do we ensure quality in point-of-care testing? 

Point-of-care (POC) testing centres in secondary care often have the support and guidance of specialist POC coordinators, a POC committee, and some have a POC team to assist in providing these tests. Users in primary care are often lacking this support and guidance and have to rely on the manufacturer of the devices for support and information. The nurses in primary care do not have the knowledge and training in laboratory procedures of biomedical scientists, so may not fully appreciate the importance of quality control. This talk explores the measure to safeguard quality in POC testing in the context of haemostasis.


Antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae

The increasing incidence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) N. gonorrhoeae makes it a public health priority. N. gonorrhoeae has an ability to rapidly develop AMR through a variety of mechanisms. Therefore, antimicrobial susceptibility surveillance of N. gonorrhoeae is essential to monitor AMR and provide data to inform gonorrhoea treatment guidelines. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) has been used to study the emergence and spread of AMR gonococcal strains. As well as investigating the transmission and relatedness of strains, WGS data can be used to determine N. gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence types and antimicrobial resistance determinants in silico. WGS is a valuable outbreak tool to monitor the spread of these resistant isolates across England and provides transmission data. 


What has PQAD achieved?

Lord Carter’s review of operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals recommended that trusts introduce the Pathology Quality Assurance Dashboard by July 2016 to assure themselves and others that the pathology service is and remains of appropriate quality and safety. Pathology services are very well monitored and assessed, with UKAS assessments against ISO 15189 standards and other regulatory and accrediting bodies. Is this rigorous assessment enough to give assurance and what can be further learnt from a pathology quality assurance dashboard?


Pathology consolidation – role of transfusion

The provision of healthcare through the NHS is facing major change in the near future in all areas of the UK. In England this is manifesting itself through the Sustainability and Transformation Plans; although the name may change, the thrust will not. Blood transfusion will have to play a major part in the provision of support to acute clinical services as they move, amalgamate, consolidate and change. This talk will explore the context of change and the connecting relationships that will need to be taken into account during this process. The different strategies that might be employed will be discussed, along with a look at what technologies can be brought to bear to support the laboratories during these turbulent times.


Next generation sequencing typing for donors

The human leucocyte antigen (HLA) group is one of the most polymorphic genetic systems in man, which is related to its role in immunity. However, this means that HLA types differ between individuals, which can present a significant challenge in transplantation and transfusion. Matching for HLA type is particularly important in haemopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) where HLA mismatching strongly correlates with increased risk of graft versus host disease, an important cause of transplant-related mortality. Recent studies in HSCT have shown improved transplant outcome when HLA matching is performed at a high level of resolution using a Sanger sequencing-based typing method. NHS Blood and Transplant has developed a next-generation sequencing (NGS) method for high-throughput HLA typing of potential stem cell and platelet donors. HLA typing by NGS is now being applied to the NHSBT platelet donor panel, which will facilitate the use of an improved matching algorithm where an epitope- rather than an antigen-based matching approach is utilised.  


Clinical and public health aspects of Zika

The Zika outbreak centred on Latin America in 2015-2017 has been unprecedented. Although we have known about the Zika virus for 60 years, it has never caused an outbreak on the scale of the recent epidemic. The outbreak appears to be in decline, probably because the majority of susceptibles have been infected and now have immunity. A Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared by the WHO from February to November 2016. The Brazilian Government declared the emergency over early in 2017. The infection itself is usually trivial, but the complications are of major public health concern. Diagnosis is challenging, control measures are limited, and more effective measures of vector control are needed. While the outbreak is in decline, the public health challenge of linking care and support to thousands of babies and their families whose lives have been blighted by the epidemic needs to be faced by the health services in the countries concerned, and will require substantial long-term support from the international community. 


Big data and bioinformatics: a primer

Big data and bioinformatics is no longer the preserve of research groups operating from dark, damp, underground locations. Indeed, the NHS already employs staff in the area of clinical bioinformatics (further classified as genomics, health informatics and physical sciences) who process large batches of data to generate biologically useful knowledge, and the requirement for this is likely to increase. This short lecture will provide an accessible introduction to big data and bioinformatics, presented by a molecular biologist (wet lab scientist) who increasingly now works as a bioinformatician. At the end of the lecture you will know what big data and bioinformatics is, where and how it is performed and, most importantly, the secret that no bioinformatician wants you to know… it really isn’t that complicated at all.   

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