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My lab: Cervical Screening Department

Cytology Manager Kay Ellis gives a guided tour of her department at Royal Hallamshire Hospital Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cares for 2 million patients each year, and provides diagnostic services from its state-of-the-art laboratories at both the Royal Hallamshire and Northern General Hospital. The cutting-edge facilities enable the Trust to carry out 25 million diagnostic tests each year, with rapid results, and house some of the most advanced diagnostic equipment in Europe.

The Cervical Screening Department is based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and provides Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing and cervical cytology for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, the Princess Alexandra Hospital (Harlow) and the States of Jersey. This equates to approximately 110,000 cervical samples a year. To process and report this workload we have 32 staff.  

We are one of the six sentinel sites in England piloting HPV testing, and we went live with HPV primary screening women in Sheffield in 2013.

The Department has close links with the North of England Pathology and Screening Education Centre which offers training and updates for all cervical screening staff, including sample takers, plus training for diagnostic cytology and histopathology.  

As the cervical screening provider lead, I form part of a team that reports abnormal cervical cytology and supports colposcopy multidisciplinary teams.  Quality is vital within the NHS Cervical Screening Programme and there are internal and external standards that we have to meet to continue to practice and comply with national key performance indicators. This means we generate a lot of statistics, so we have an IT specialist who we share with histopathology.

The prep room and HPV laboratory are supervised by an advanced biomedical scientist who looks after the team responsible for sorting out all the samples that arrive by post from Jersey and by courier/local transport from elsewhere. The team sort out the samples; labelling them, entering them on to our laboratory information management system and ensuring that they proceed along the correct pathway through the laboratory. The MLAs process the cytology slides and operate the HPV analysers. We have a dedicated laboratory housing all the HPV analysers plus the preanalytics. We were the first laboratory in the world to get the p480 – the preanalytical stage of the Roche Cobas platform. We have recently installed the Cobas 6800 to increase our HPV testing capacity as we have extended screening to Rotherham and Barnsley.

The screening laboratory and clerical support is supervised by an advanced biomedical scientist, who looks after the workflow through the screening process by cytoscreeners and checkers, with final report, if abnormal, issued by the consultants. The generation of reports ensuring that women who need to be directly referred for colposcopy get their appointments, is also managed by the advanced biomedical scientist.  

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust encourages the training and development of its staff. This is demonstrated by three of our staff, who started life in the lab as cytoscreeners and have been supported through degrees and portfolios to become specialist biomedical scientists We have one trainee who we are supporting through her generic portfolio and are looking to develop her skills within molecular biology.

I am proud to work in the cervical screening department at Sheffield and to work with a dedicated team of professionals who ensure that the women we serve are at the heart of the service we provide.  

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