Blackpool Teaching Hospitals achieve international lab accreditation

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s COVID testing facilities have been awarded international accreditation following rigorous assessment from one of the industry’s key performance and protection bodies.

The Trust’s medical laboratories at Blackpool Victoria have seen their standards and practices scrutinised over the past few weeks, with areas such as microbiology, biochemistry, blood transfusion, haematology and the quality management systems all under the microscope.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is a government appointed body, which assesses and certifies organisations in the areas of testing, inspection and calibration services. With an international set of standards, the UKAS accreditation is widely recognised as the benchmark for the high standards within laboratories around the world.

This year’s inspection at Blackpool Victoria, took the form of a virtual assessment due to COVID restrictions, but was also the one of the first which saw a Trust’s COVID testing facilities scrutinised.

Following the UKAS inspection, the Trust are delighted to confirm Virology’s in-house diagnostic Covid tests along with the Covid antibody test are now accredited  to the ISO 15189 standard. In particular the assessors commented on our strong and committed Microbiology consultant team as well as the quality of biomedical science training.

Speaking about the accreditation award, the Trust’s Acting Pathology Directorate Manager, Clare Ellis said: “This is a real achievement that we have managed to retain the UKAS accreditation. Particularly at a time when due to the pandemic, like all areas of the NHS, we have had a high volume of work and challenges with staffing. We are one of only a handful of laboratories in the UK that have received UKAS accreditation for their Covid testing.

“Every lab is every year, and it is quite a large undertaking. They look at all elements of our testing processes, the information we give to patients, our turnaround times as well as our testing processes.

“They also look at the staff, the competency, the training, our quality controls and performance. The consultants are also included in their assessment and their clinical activity is reviewed, so they look at all aspects of laboratory work.”

Due to COVID guidance and regulations within the NHS, the assessment this year was performed remotely, with the Trust’s laboratory staff coming up with innovative ways to demonstrate their competence.

“The assessment was quite a different experience this year, but overall a really positive experience,” Clare continued.

“In normal circumstances, UKAS come on site and have a good look around. This time that wasn’t possible, so they did a remote inspection. That was really good because it helped us to come up with new and creative ways to show them things.

“Some of the staff made videos of the tests, we toured the lab with our laptops and we made some nice videos. Obviously we send them loads of documentation and we generally conduct the meetings by Teams or by phone call.

“It’s a huge credit to all our teams that we have received the UKAS accreditation and a reflection of how hard each and every individual works to maintain the highest of standards at all times.”

The Trust’s Pathology laboratory is comprised of Blood Transfusion, Haematology, Cellular Pathology, Mortuary, Microbiology, Virology, Phlebotomy, Point of Care Testing and our Anti-Coagulant Dosing Service.

With approximately 250 staff the laboratory tests thousands of samples a day and operate a 24/7 service. The majority of the Trust’s staff are Biomedical Scientists, but the department also includes Medical Laboratory assistants, Assistant Practitioners, Clinical Scientists and Consultants, as well as  administrative and IT staff and our staff in the mortuary team.

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