Cellular Pathology Operations Manager, Neal Byron, explains how he and the team managed a rapid transfer of lab services from the Whittington Hospital to Sonic Healthcare UK.

In the latter part of 2022, UCLH was asked to take on the Whittington Hospital’s Cellular Pathology lab services as part of an emergency request for assistance. As UCLH’s key lab provider partner, Sonic Healthcare UK was involved in the operation’s planning.

“We didn’t have much time for the transfer of activity to the hub laboratory at 60 Whitfield Street and, as usual, the move would involve managing some fairly complex logistics.”

All of the hospital’s Cellular Pathology samples taken in theatres and clinics had previously been processed and reported by their on-site laboratory. The laboratory and reporting functions needed to be relocated at our hub laboratory at 60 Whitfield Street.

Additionally, the hospital had been using their own laboratory information system and patient management system which needed to be integrated with our own Helix IT system.

The existing Whittington NHS team, comprising laboratory and administrative staff, also had to be relocated and transferred to our Whitfield Street laboratory, and so a staff consultation exercise was rapidly arranged, with both HR departments collaborating to support the staff affected.


Going live

The go-live deadline was set for 1st January 2023, although in practice a few samples were processed prior to that date. A small laboratory team has been retained at the Whittington site to access and carefully package and track all samples to our Whitfield Street laboratory. Other Whittington staff have now been integrated into our Sonic Healthcare UK team.

All of the Trust’s Cellular Pathology samples are now processed at 60 Whitfield Street where they are prepared for the UCLH Consultant Pathologists to undertake reporting.

The exercise has not only gone very smoothly but there have been some added benefits to the move:

“The additional workload has been significant and has required some changes to our pathways - but this has actually proved beneficial in relation to our planned harmonisation of systems to include the UCLH specimen pathway. As one of the final steps in our transformation we are in the process of moving UCLH colleagues onto our Helix system. The Whittington transfer acted as a good opportunity to introduce them to Helix prior to their main go live.”

The speed at which activity was safely transferred from the Trust is truly impressive, and provides another example of Sonic Healthcare UK’s adaptability and can-do spirit.