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We formed a company: creating a POCT network in Scotland

Robyn Wilson, NHS Tayside Deputy Point-of Care-Testing Manager, explains her work with colleague Jayne McKay, Point-of-Care Manager, to bring together services across Scotland.

Working as Deputy Manager for Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) for the past five years I have come to realise that the job is very different from the traditional biomedical scientist role. We develop our skills quickly based on the demands of our service and adapt more quickly to change. This is incredibly rewarding – I have learned lots of skills and the role has challenged me to embrace the possibility that I can learn to do anything if I put my mind to it.

However, I have realised that one of the biggest challenges in POCT is not being able to easily share information across health boards. For example, a company rep may anecdotally tell me that “NHS X” is providing a service in which I may be interested, but I don’t know who their POCT team is, so am unable to reach out.

In NHS Tayside, despite some days feeling like we’re constantly fire fighting, our team is relatively well resourced, which allows us to keep projects moving forward, stay up to date with quality-type duties and ensure staff are maintaining their training and competencies. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but when your team consists of one person, they are the duties that will fall to the bottom of the priority list.

Opportunities and the vision

We’re very well supported by our department and given opportunities to attend educational and networking events. These events are so valuable to us – we come back feeling invigorated and full of new ideas to implement. But we almost always note that we are the only Scottish representatives. It’s not necessarily clear what the barriers are, whether it’s being released from a department when you are the only team member, financial implications or some other factor we haven’t thought of. But it is clear that Scotland’s POCT teams are missing out.

We had a vision to create a network that provides the POCT teams of Scotland with equal opportunities to discover educational talks, innovative new devices and a chance to get together. When colleagues are able to get to know each other, quite quickly they start sharing ideas, feel like they’re not alone (even if their team is very small) and go back to work feeling positive. This is what we set out to achieve.

Where to begin?

With a primary goal of hosting a networking meeting, we started making enquiries around hotels for prices, thinking it would simply be as easy as that. But the hotels and conference centres asked more questions than we were able to answer at that time:

How many delegates would be there? What was the nature of the conference (we knew but explaining wasn’t easy)?

So we had to regroup. We realised we had to form a company, which sounds very grand, but was surprisingly easy.

I can’t say it wasn’t daunting, because it absolutely was, but it was the first step towards achieving our mission of bringing the POCT community together and our passion for this goal kept us going. The business was created because it was our mechanism to be able to put on educational events and, whilst inspired by our day-to-day work, it is a venture that was and remains completely independent from our day jobs. We registered as a limited company called “POCT-for-Scot” and began setting up a website.

The website was to be a place where our network could find reliable information regarding POCT devices, read blogs and articles shared by other POCT teams and discover educational resources and events to attend.

This took the most time and doing it in our spare time was tiring, but we were determined. We launched the website on 1 November 2022. It was basic, but we had our visions and mission statement for the future of our POCT network. We blogged about our road to accreditation and the obstacles we had to overcome and shared educational webinars that had been sent to us.

When colleagues are able to get to know each other, quite quickly they start sharing ideas

Vendors quickly began introducing themselves to us and this was incredible because we were learning about new companies and technologies that we hadn’t previously been aware of and we knew that our network was missing out on potential service-improving devices.

Our website began to develop and we started to create dedicated vendor pages where the vendors could show their devices and our network members could view at their leisure. As our skills grew, I wanted to ensure that our network was kept up to date with new website content – with that came our monthly newsletter. Our subscribers are the first to hear about device innovations, educational events and new content. We’ve had great feedback from these and our subscribers have grown in number each month.

The conference

We then arranged our first conference. We hosted the inaugural event in Stirling on 14 March this year. It wasn’t widely advertised because we wanted to ensure that this type of event was something that the network would find useful. It was an afternoon of talks and interactive discussions but we were overwhelmed by the engagement from the delegates who were represented by eight out of 14 of the Scottish health boards.

We obtained feedback from the delegates – they made suggestions on future talks that they’d like as well as the fact that they would like the events to continue. This was what we had hoped for and it had made all the effort in the months leading up to March so worthwhile.

Becoming entrepreneurs

We are not business people by trade – we are and always will be biomedical scientists. But with our enthusiasm to provide educational days for POCT in Scotland, we had no choice but to enter into the world of business.

We attended our local business development company who helped us write our business plans, understand the legalities of running a company and have helped us to run an educational networking day as a business event.

Bringing the future to you

As POCT-for-Scot continues to grow, we will continue to share innovations, educational materials and deliver events to our network. You can find more details, or even contribute to our network by visiting poct-for-scot.com. We also invite you to come and join us at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh on 7 November for a day of exciting presentations, interactive discussion sessions and a wide array of the latest POCT technologies.

Image Credit | Shutterstock

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