Delivering 21st century diagnostics

18 Dec, 2019

HSL Board member, Mike Dinan, reflects on the fast pace of change for pathology

A win-win situation
As a life-long West Ham & Munster rugby fan, I suppose you could say I relish a challenge. Which is probably as well given there’s no shortage of those on a daily basis in my dual roles as both Commercial Finance Director at the Royal Free, and as a member of the HSL Board.

I’m in something of a unique position as I’m both a customer and shareholder of the same organisation. But, unlike the sporting teams I follow, I really do want both sides to win. In fact, I think both sides are playing well at the moment – which isn’t to say there isn’t always room for improvement!

I came to the Royal Free and HSL by way of the London Ambulance Trust. I’ve been part of HSL from its inception, having helped create the business case that persuaded the Trust to become a founding partner. I’ve been on the HSL Board since 2015 and I think, bring some unique experience and insights to the organisation.

I started my career with the global logistics company, UPS, with whom I worked for 12 years. I’ve always been fascinated by how supply chains work. HSL processes 15 million tests each year from the Royal Free alone. That takes a lot of coordination and cooperation, especially between our rapid response laboratories (RRLs) and the Halo. As with any supply chain, I’m acutely aware that it exists to serve a great customer / patient experience. Our clinicians at the Royal Free expect excellent lab services to provide great patient care. Getting the logistics right is a vital part of what we do.

Talk to everyone in the team
I am interested in all aspects of the service and the teams involved, from the portering staff who get the samples to the lab, to the logistics teams who manage the necessary transport to deliver a safe and effective service. If an urgent blood sample lies in a dusty box for half an hour waiting to be collected by a porter who can’t find it, turn-around times will obviously be affected, as will patient outcomes. Similarly, delays in transferring results from lab to ward can slow down the provision of potentially life-saving treatment. While it’s fantastic to have access to the very latest diagnostic technology, if the infrastructure around it can’t support the transfer of vital clinical information, its benefit to patients is compromised.

Patient outcomes as a priority
Patient outcomes are what really matter and HSL’s whole approach is patient-centric. At the same time, we have to be smart about how we support that by making sure we offer the right test for the right patient at the right time.

So, for example, our RRL here at the Royal Free is truly ‘hot’, while less urgent and specialist tests are sent straight to the Halo. It means a more streamlined operation and helps achieve the best clinical outcomes for patients. I should also add that our partnership with HSL has also allowed us to invest in our RRLs. We are really pleased with the refurbished lab at Barnet Hospital which opened a short time ago.

Redefining pathology
I love the energy I see at the Halo. Great staff working in a state-of-the-art lab with lots of research, education and training opportunities. HSL is moving the image of pathology away from being something that was a bit fusty and confined to the basement, to being a vital part of patient care. I particularly enjoyed being a ‘Dragon’ in our inaugural Dragons’ Den, and experiencing the passion and ambition of HSL managers.

I said I like challenges, and getting people to work well as a team, and sometimes in different ways, isn’t always easy, but I think HSL has done very well to build a unified team that supports individual trusts. At organisational level, NHS trusts are notorious for not being overly cooperative. UCLH and the Royal Free are, in their own ways, very different – but we have built a strong, collaborative partnership through HSL which has helped improve clinical pathways for patients across North Central London.

What does the future hold?
While both my roles mean I’m very focused on how we provide faster, better quality diagnostics – at the right price – I’m very aware of the extraordinary pace of change underway in pathology. Machine learning, development of genomics and personalised medicines will have a massive impact on the way we approach patient care and shape the sorts of tests we undertake. So it’s heartening to know the huge contribution HSL makes to dynamic research and development in this area. Continued shared learning and collaborative working between people and organisations is what will keep HSL at the top of its game.

HSL is a partnership between The Doctors Laboratory, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (the Royal Free London) and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH)

Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories