2 Mar, 2021
“I like a challenge,” says TDL Manchester’s Operational Site Lead, Diane Benson. While many will have felt distinctly challenged over the past year, Diane is clearly someone who enjoys pushing herself that bit further from a comfort zone.
Her route into managing TDL’s brand new Manchester laboratory has not been a conventional one. Coming relatively late to science, she started her early career in accountancy. Having completed all the qualifications, she decided to follow a long-held ambition to do something in the healthcare profession, so enrolled herself at Keele University to study biomedical science.
Her experience as a mature student was not without its challenges. Walking into her first lecture, her fellow students all fell quiet thinking she was the lecturer!
However, she says, “the upside was being able to focus on something I really wanted to do.” Graduating with a first class honours degree, Diane then went on to a trainee biomedical post at Mid Cheshire NHS trust. There, she completed her registration portfolio and competencies within 12 months. It was during this time at the trust that her interest in transfusion was sparked.
This led to Diane completing a masters in transfusion and transplantation in Bristol (all the while raising a family) and then onto being transfusion manager at the same trust. Having risen to pathology manager at this trust, managing both Leighton and Macclesfield sites, she stayed for a further three years, until she was approached about the operational site lead position at TDL Manchester.
“Lockdown happened within a week of me starting with TDL” says Diane. “But being involved in the new build project was a great opportunity to start from the ground floor – literally.”
Working closely with Andrew Levett during the build, Diane was also able to make a few changes to improve the lab’s workflow. “The new lab is absolutely amazing” she says, “and I’m looking forward to fully moving the service over in March.”
Diane now manages a staff of over 90 people – a large proportion of which work in the sample reception area. The lab’s postal work has doubled in the ten months since she arrived.
The lab processes the usual repertoire of services – serology, haematology, biochemistry, virology and transfusion, and although the lab doesn’t actually process Covid samples, samples received from local hospitals and clinics are labelled and booked in by her staff before being couriered down to the Halo for processing to help speed the process overall.
“Covid has presented relatively few major challenges to the operation,” she says, “however, we’ve clearly had to focus on arranging space to maintain social distancing and keep the staff safe.”
As TDL Manchester grows into its function as an impressive Northern hub, there are sure to be other challenges ahead, and no doubt Diane will meet them head on.