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When you have a blood sample taken, have you ever wondered what happens between the ‘sharp scratch’ of it being taken and the results arriving? Well on Biomedical Science Day 2018, pathology staff at Weston General Hospital took the opportunity to show the world their biomedical wizardry.

Patrick Simms, Senior Biomedical Scientist and Pathology Training Manager at Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT), said: “Biomedical Science Day is a great opportunity for us to promote the role of biomedical science. By stepping out from behind our usually locked laboratory doors we can show the public how vital our role is in their healthcare.”

Using specialist machines as well as manual skills and techniques, Weston pathology includes microbiology, histopathology and blood sciences which comprises clinical biochemistry, haematology and transfusion. So if you’ve ever given a blood, stool, urine or tissue sample, chances are it was sent to your local pathology laboratory.

To celebrate Biomedical Science Day 2018, pathology staff at Weston had a stall in the hospital restaurant where staff, patients and visitors could find out more about the role of a biomedical scientist. The team also offered tours of the pathology department to see what goes on behind the usually locked doors.

Stuart Glanville, who works in the estates and facilities department at the hospital, said: “I meet the staff regularly when delivering equipment and samples that arrive at the hospital but have never had the opportunity to stop and talk and find out more about what they do. When I heard they were offering tours I took the opportunity and I am really glad I did; it was so interesting to understand how and why they do things, and to see what a crucial role pathology staff play in caring for patients not only in the hospital but also across the whole local community.”

The tour and what we found out It was just after 3pm and there was lots of activity as all the specimens had just arrived from local GP surgeries. Samples with different coloured lids correspond to different processing areas and analytical tests, so all samples were sorted and assigned a unique identifying number so they could be tracked throughout the whole process. Weston blood sciences processes over 250,000 samples a year.
Natalia Casey biomedical scientist microbiology and Jane Rowse medical laboratory assistant                 Biomedical scientist Mohammed Yusuf

Chemical pathology uses high-tech scientific machines to analyse biological components of blood and other fluids for the monitoring and diagnosis of disease. Haematology is the study of blood cells and disorders whilst blood transfusion includes identifying blood type, antibody screening and crossmatching for blood transfusions. Microbiology is the study of infection; lots of petri dishes like tiny greenhouses, growing bacteria to identify infections and testing for antibiotic resistance. Histopathology is the study of disease in human tissue so samples such as biopsies are received here – for the cells to be analysed under a microscope they are infiltrated with paraffin wax and converted into a solid so a thin section can be cut, mounted on a glass slide and stained.

All staff within the pathology laboratories at Weston General Hospital are so passionate about what they do and yet they never meet the patients they help care for.

Alison Geddis, President of the Institute of Biomedical Science, said: “Despite many encounters with our work throughout their lifetime, most people are unaware of the important role of biomedical science in their healthcare.

“The theme for Biomedical Science Day 2018 was ‘at the heart of healthcare’, aimed at highlighting how the role of our members is central to patients’ healthcare as biomedical science produces the data on which doctors, consultants and surgeons base their diagnoses to plan a patient’s treatment.”