Faster sample analysis for UK and EU hospitals

Innovative concepts in the lab

Run by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the new automated Medical Laboratory at the Northern General Hospital has drawn a previously fragmented service into a purpose-built centre.

Automation and IT connectivity play a major role in Roche´s product...
Automation and IT connectivity play a major role in Roche´s product development and solution offering, according to Roland Diggelmann.

With facilities for haematology, microbiology, clinical chemistry, immunology and virology testing, samples for analysis arrive via a vacuum pipe network running across the main hospital campus, or by courier from other district general hospitals or GP surgeries across the Yorkshire region and hospitals across the UK and Europe.

Lead contractor Roche provides the hospital with a comprehensive managed laboratory service package, which means that in addition to installing key components of the automated testing equipment, the firm oversees procurement of anything from agents to sample tubes as well as having a company representative onsite.

Medical laboratory directorate manager Peter Blair explained that the new centre and automated equipment can process more than 10 million tests a year with urgent A&E samples turned around in 40 minutes and results delivered electronically to the requesting clinicians, while GP results are available overnight.

He also added that the technology helps with tests for Norovirus where the automation and rapid turnaround means a suspected outbreak can be confirmed or ruled out more quickly, as well as faster identification of MRSA and clostridium difficile.

In addition to blood sample analysis, tests are conducted on wound swabs, urines and STD screens, and the centre offers a high security sealed environment for samples that may be, e.g. TB or swine flu.

‘The automation means we’ve been able to deploy the more highly qualified staff to where they are needed and expand the range of services we offer,’ said virology department manager Duncan Whittaker. The installation has seen Roche provide the automated track system at the Northern General Hospital campus, which sees samples loaded onto the Roche pre-analytics module for decapping, centrifugation and aliquoting. The system features three high volume cobas 8000 for chemistry immunology and serology testing along with the cobas p 701 Post Analytic Unit for recapping, storage of up to 32,000 samples and retrieval of samples for further investigation.

Roche has also installed systems for cardiac, heart failure and bone disease testing.

The managed laboratory service sees all Roche and third party equipment managed and maintained by Roche along with consolidation of purchasing, supply, stock management and procurement, covering more than 120 suppliers. ‘This approach of managing a complete lab is rather unique to the UK market and its specific parameters,’ explained Roland Diggelmann, Chief Operating Officer at Roche Diagnostics. ‘We help reduce the overall operating costs of running a lab, and provide maintenance and service as a one-stop shop.’

Roche Diagnostics Ltd managing director Christopher Parker added that Roche is responsible for managing all supplies, ‘everything from glass slides to reagents for the various instruments in the laboratory’ and the firm also has a person in situ to tend the equipment.


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