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The Future of Integrated Pathology

5 February 2015

Innovation is essential to the future of the NHS and the modernisation of pathology is high on the agenda. Around 95% of clinical pathways rely on patients having access to efficient, timely and cost effective pathology services. Virology, a specialist area of pathology which studies viruses, is crucial to understanding and combatting diseases like Ebola. Pathology touches all of our lives, from before we are born to, in many cases, after we die.

The development of the Severn Pathology integrated service model at Southmead Hospital is leading the way in the modernisation of pathology in the UK. North Bristol NHS Trust have worked with Avanti Architects on various projects since 2006 and our most recent project together has been the development of the first regionally consolidated pathology service.

Severn Pathology is based on a ‘hub and spoke model’ which offers major strategic, commercial and operational advantages. The creation of a molecular diagnostic hub, which combines specialist regional molecular work with molecular virology, delivers greater integration, whilst strongly positioning the service to take advantage of future developments in genomics. The recent advances in technology and the promise of cheap and fast whole genomic data offer the possibility to revolutionise healthcare.

Locating consolidated pathology services in the same quadrant on the hospital site as the recent learning and research developments (also designed by Avanti) provides an increasing opportunity to strengthen the Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) vision for Bristol and further opportunities for innovation.

Extensive studies were undertaken to develop the functional requirements for Severn Pathology and a wide range of workflow and specialist technical requirements had to be accommodated within the proposed shared laboratories of currently separate organisations. In developing the vision for integration an Industrial Engineering company was appointed to review and revise flows between pathology disciplines to optimise efficiency.  Services are predominantly designed around a central specimen reception function with automated movement of samples and goods around and between the buildings.  Pathology is leading the way in the use of digital technology, with the automated disciplines at the leading edge.

Severn Pathology will deliver efficiency improvements by reducing infrastructure and technology duplication, delivering technology enhancements and improvements in laboratory workflow. The increased scale of the proposed new service particularly in microbiology means it can benefit from the use of high volume automation to provide bacteriology services more effectively and economically. The scheme also offers increased opportunities for integration with the Bristol Genetics Laboratory. Laboratory programmes are constantly changing which is reflected in the flexibility and future extendibility of the design of these buildings. Joined up pathology services are the future.


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Brendan Hanrahan, Pathology Programme Manager at North Bristol NHS Trust talks about why pathology matters and how an integrated approach could transform the future of healthcare