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Leeds firm’s tech innovation to link labs in Scotland

An innovative lab-to-lab messaging service championed by the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network is to expand into Scotland.

All NHS labs in Scotland are to be linked through the National Pathology Exchange Network following the approval of NHS Scotland Shared Services.

The executive board of NHS Scotland has given the green light to a business case that will see all 14 of the county’s health board connected to the exchange hub, enabling hospital lab teams to communicate electronically.

The National Pathology Exchange (NPEx) provides lab-to-lab messaging from any laboratory information management system (LIMS) to other labs in the UK, enabling test requests and pathology results to be sent digitally.

Developed by Leeds-based X-Lab and delivered by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust Health Informatics Service (THIS), the system eliminates the need for paper-based requests and manual data entry into LIMS, lowering the risk of human error and speeding up the rate at which diagnoses can be delivered to patients.

The system also allows the location and progress of tests to be tracked and enables pathology managers to see what tests each lab offers, including how much they charge and their turnaround times.

Steve Box, business development director at X-Lab said: “A major advantage we had over other bidders for the work was the spread of NPEx in England, where it is used by around 70 per cent of NHS Trusts.

“As some hospitals south of Edinburgh send samples to labs based in England, for example in Newcastle, it is imperative that the lab-to-lab systems are able to ‘speak’ to each other.

“Rationalisation across the 29 pathology networks will see the volume of lab-to-lab communications growing significantly and the central, national role of NPEx will serve as a key enabler for the strategic transformation that is planned.”

Chris Dunne, assistant director of informatics at THIS, said: “For patients and clinicians, results will be available immediately and risks of transcription error will be eliminated. For staff, both technical and clinical, the time-consuming paperwork of manually recording and processing hundreds of thousands of pathology results will be completely automated by modern digital systems.”

The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has commissioned an economic study into the NPEx system to demonstrate its impact and value on the NHS.

Dr Neville Young, Director of Enterprise and Innovation, said: “The NPEx system is a great example of an innovation that is not only helping to deliver a more efficient way of working for front-line staff but also improving patient safety and experience.

“The economic health study we have commissioned will provide a detailed insight into how the system can improve efficiencies and the benefits it is able to deliver.”

Steve Box added: “We are looking forward to receiving the report as this will help us demonstrate the system’s effectiveness to NHS England.

“It will also provide us with a financial calculator we can give to prospective customers.”