Professor Peter Chiodini, Consultant Parasitologist and Clinical Lead for the diagnosis of parasitic infections at HSL, is one of three members of staff to receive an RCPath Excellence award: a celebration of excellence in pathology practice and education by the Royal College of Pathologists. As well as working at UCLH, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Public Health England (PHE), Peter oversees HSL’s parasitology department and the UK NEQAS parasitology lab, operated through PHE. Both of these are located in HSL’s flagship laboratory, the Halo.
“It’s wonderful to be recognised by the College,” he says. “It’s a real reflection of the incredible work we do here in the NEQAS lab – by the whole team.” Peter is joined in the NEQAS lab by four scientists: Dr Jaya Shrivastava, Dr Samuel Boadi, Mrs Agatha Christie Saez and Miss Nikita Chauhan. Together they to help to quality assess and improve the standards of diagnostic parasitology throughout the UK.
With greater global mobility and rising rates of immunosuppression – often a result of modern medical procedures such as bone marrow transplants – parasitic infections are becoming increasingly common. Demand for rapid, accurate testing is growing.
“Parasitology expertise in the UK is currently concentrated in a small number of specialist reference laboratories – HSL’s hub laboratory, the Halo, being one of them,” says Peter. “Yet there’s still a need for a certain level of skill throughout the country. Routine parasite testing often takes place in local labs, rather than a specialist centre. Our role in the NEQAS lab is to provide External Quality Assessment (EQA) – sending out real specimens to assess the parasitology skills and techniques of non-specialist labs. EQA helps ensure the quality of parasitic diagnosis meets a consistently high standard wherever you are in UK.”
A large part of their work involves sourcing, quality checking and sending out specimens to labs across the country. The labs test these specimens, and send them back to the NEQAS lab with their results. This helps Peter and the team identify labs which are underperforming and may be in need of expert support.
What’s particularly special about the UK NEQAS parasitology lab – and the reason why Peter has won an RCPath Excellence Award – is its dedicated teaching scheme, open to all those who are enrolled in the EQA programme.
“The teaching scheme is the jewel in the crown of the NEQAS lab,” says Peter. “In order to improve the quality of parasitology services across the country, we need to be positive rather than punitive in our approach. If a lab has got it wrong, we offer tailored support and training to help them improve their service and become better at parasite diagnosis.”
A unique feature of the teaching scheme is its regular programme of educational roadshows. Nine roadshows are held each year, two in London and the other seven in different regional centres. Each roadshow is led by an expert from the NEQAS lab in the HSL hub laboratory. “It’s an excellent opportunity to deliver expert training, share best practice and offer real-life, practical support to laboratory staff. We provide educational materials and handouts for people to take away with them, which helps support their continuous professional development and learning outside the classroom.”
The roadshows have been running for the past 25 years, and feedback from attendees has always been very positive. “The NEQAS teaching scheme has undoubtedly helped to improve the quality of parasitology services across the country,” says Peter. “Our roadshows provide practical benefits to healthcare professionals and laboratory staff, helping them to improve both their knowledge and skills in diagnostic parasitology. Standards have improved, and will continue to improve, the more we commit to continuous education and training.”
We are delighted that Ashleigh Dadson-Butt and Dr Rebecca Gorton were also recognised for their work by the Royal College of Pathologists. To read Ashleigh’s interview, please click here.