The Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest NHS organisations in the country based, is working with CliniSys to deploy a single laboratory information management system (LIMS) across its pathology services.
The trust, which was formed last October when Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust formally merged with The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, will use WinPath Enterprise to support harmonised working practices at its laboratories.
This will make it easier for the single pathology team to share expertise and resources and deliver a faster testing service for GPs, local hospitals, and nearby Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which is part of a shared pathology service called Pathology at Wigan and Salford (PAWS).
Ian Grant, diagnostics and pharmacy (D&P) digital portfolio lead and programme director at the Northern Care Alliance, said: “The catalyst for moving to a single LIMS is to support the single pathology team, ensuring they can work smarter.
“At the moment, if Salford is short of resource, the teams at the hospital sites previously run under the former Pennine Acute Trust cannot send people to assist, or vice-versa, because they can’t use each other’s LIMS platforms.
“If there is a single LIMS, and harmonised working processes, they will be able to help each other out. That should mean that we can get results out faster, which will improve the service that we can deliver to clinicians and patients.”
The Northern Care Alliance provides a wide range of pathology services for its four hospitals in Salford, Oldham, Bury, and Rochdale, and satellite clinics run by its predecessor trusts, as well as Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, and local GPs.
This is an approach that we are sure others will want to emulate as they look to make a similarly-positive impact on clinical satisfaction with IT systems and on patient care
In total, it delivers around 30 million tests a year for a population of 1.2 million people.
Currently, the pathology service at Salford is using a legacy IT system from another supplier, while the pathology service at the former Pennine Acute Trust is using a legacy IT system from CliniSys that is due to be retired.
Teams from the new joint service are in the early stages of planning to deploy the latest version of WinPath Enterprise, with a view to going live before the end of 2023.
Grant said the move to a single LIMS, and the decision to opt for cloud hosting, is aligned to other IT developments at the trust, which is looking to merge its patient administration and electronic patient record systems.
“One of the things I am very conscious of is that we have two legacy LIMS solutions that have been in place for 20 years,” he added.
“That’s not unusual in the NHS, which always needs to spend any money that is available on patients.
“But the Northern Care Alliance has made a conscious decision to fund IT projects that can positively impact on care, and the single LIMS is such a project for that approach.”
The move to cloud computing will also make it easier for the new pathology service to work with other laboratories in the area.
As part of its harmonisation work, the Northern Care Alliance has created a single catalogue of tests and a single data set to capture information about them.
The group is now planning to offer this to other trusts, so their clinicians can order the same tests and view the results, wherever they were conducted.
Richard Craven, chief executive of CliniSys, said: “We’re delighted to be working with an organisation that is taking such a strategic approach to its IT and investing in cloud-first infrastructure.
The Northern Care Alliance has made a conscious decision to fund IT projects that can positively impact on care, and the single LIMS is such a project for that approach
“This is an approach that we are sure others will want to emulate as they look to make a similarly-positive impact on clinical satisfaction with IT systems and on patient care.”
Chris Sleight, chief officer for the Greater Manchester Pathology Network, added: “This is a significant step in our ambition to introduce standardisation and interoperability across our Greater Manchester Pathology Network.
“The NCA and other network partners are moving to new LIMS platforms and are now working together to ensure standardisation so that pathology information is available across the network to benefit patient care and experience.
“Having state-of-the-art LIMS systems such as the CliniSys solution now enables us to introduce other cutting-edge diagnostic IT solutions to benefit patients and clinicians such as digital pathology.”