National Pathology Week 19 – 25 June 2023
National Pathology Week (NPW) is an annual celebration of pathology, when we highlight the important contribution pathologists make to healthcare.
Pathology is the study of disease and is central to diagnoses made in the NHS. The work of pathologists and scientists is vital for efficient and effective healthcare. Working in hospitals and the community, pathologists and scientists are involved in preventing, diagnosing, treating and monitoring diseases to keep people as healthy as possible.
Every year in the UK, Pathology services handle over 150 million samples. It is estimated that over 70% of medical diagnoses are based on their laboratory test results. Without pathology, diagnosis and treatment would be less effective.
- Around 95% of clinical pathways rely on patients having access to pathology services
- 500 million biochemistry and 130 million haematology tests are carried out per year
- 14 tests for each person in England and Wales are performed annually
- 300,000 tests are performed every working day
- 50 million reports are sent from labs to GPs every year
You may have dropped samples off in Pathology or be familiar with the phlebotomy clinic, but do you know just how big Pathology is through those restricted access doors …
Here at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, pathology is divided into several different laboratory disciplines comprised of over 200 members of staff:
Haematology and Blood Transfusion
Doctors, biomedical and clinical scientists working in haematology study blood and blood-borne diseases. We often work across laboratories, wards and clinics, supporting patients with illnesses such as anaemia, leukaemia and haemophilia. We also oversee the management of hospital blood stocks, making sure patients who need transfusions get access to safe and correct blood when they need it.
Clinical biochemistry is the study of bodily fluids. Biomedical and clinical scientists analyse blood and other body fluids to detect enzymes, chemicals and hormones to help the diagnosis of disease e.g. diabetes, and cancer. We also carry out toxicological studies, test kidney and liver functions and help to monitor therapies.
In Immunology we deal with the condition of the body’s immune system and its role in infectious diseases, allergies, tumour growth, tissue grafts and organ transplantation. This work is particularly important in the monitoring and treatment of AIDS, autoimmune conditions and allergies.
Cellular pathology is the study of diseases of tissue and cells. It’s the largest specialty in pathology and includes histopathology and cytopathology.
Histology is the microscopical study of tissue samples to establish the cause of disease. Tissue may be taken during surgery or at post-mortem. Diseases such as cancer are diagnosed by looking for abnormal features in tissue and cells.
Cytology is best known for screening cervical smears, but it also provides a non-gynaecological service e.g. bronchial washes and sputum tests. Like histology, specialised techniques are used to prepare and study samples of cellular material
Mortuary also falls within the Cellular Pathology umbrella.
Microbiology and Virology focus on the isolation and detection of infectious agents.
Microbiology is the study of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites which cause disease. Biomedical scientists identify these organisms and establish their sensitivity to specific antibiotics.
Virology is the study of viruses and the disease caused by them such as German measles, HIV and chicken pox. Virologists are involved in monitoring the effects of vaccines
Biomedical scientists study infectious organisms under the microscope and together with consultant microbiologists advise clinicians and public health organisations on how to treat and contain them.
Anticoagulant Services (ADAS)
ADAS is a consultant-led anticoagulation service which is run by a team of biomedical scientists and healthcare assistants and provides comprehensive therapy and anticoagulant management to over 6,000 patients in Blackpool, Fylde, and Wyre. The ADAS team are responsible for the INR monitoring, dosing of anticoagulants and providing patient education and support on anticoagulant drugs.
These patients are monitored at 18 point of care clinic sessions held at different locations throughout Fylde and Wyre. The department also provide a domiciliary visit service for terminally ill or housebound patients, ADAS provides in the region of 80-100 domiciliary visits per day.
ADAS look after a variety of patients requiring anticoagulation with either warfarin or direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) including those with atrial fibrillation who are at an increased risk of stroke, patients who have had deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, those with thrombotic clotting disorders which predisposes them to an increase thrombus risk, patients who have had prosthetic heart valves and those that require anticoagulation for various other reasons.
Some stats showing the impact of pathology on healthcare
- Cervical cancer in the UK fell by 42% when screening was introduced, a direct result of the cellular pathologists and scientists working with family doctors
- Vaccinations for pets have decreased cases of cat flu and other nasty diseases. Veterinary pathologists play a core part in advances in animal health
- Only a small proportion of pathologists (less than 1%) investigate suspicious deaths
- Humans have 20,000–25,000 genes. Scientists working in genetics help to investigate the genetic causes of disease
- Each year, about 2 million units of donated blood are transfused in the UK. Many of these transfusions are for patients of haematologists – pathologists specialising in blood-bourne diseases
- By 2025, it is estimated that 5 million people in the UK will have diabetes. Chemical pathologists work to monitor diabetes – and many other chronic illnesses – to help patients live more comfortably