Behind the Scenes – How Hospital Laboratories are Saving Lives

24th April 2023
Laboratory Staff at the Ulster Hospital

The role of hospital laboratories is more vital than ever before. Within the Ulster Hospital Laboratory, a team of highly qualified Healthcare Scientists and Support Staff work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to process over 1 million samples every year, producing approximately 5.5 million test results aiding in the diagnosis, treatment and management of disease.

As a Trust, we are extremely proud to be the only hospital laboratory in Northern Ireland to have the facilities to test for a gastrointestinal marker called ‘Calprotectin’ which helps to differentiate between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. With approximately 52,000 samples being tested each year, this technology prevents the need for further more invasive procedures.

Without hospital laboratories, Doctors and healthcare professionals would be unable to provide accurate diagnoses and develop effective treatment plans. They play a critical role in ensuring patient safety and improving healthcare outcomes and are responsible for conducting a wide range of tests, including blood tests, microbiology, pathology, and many more.

Laboratory Manager, Raymond Gamble commented, “Laboratory staff are often one of the many hidden heroes of the hospital. Although we do not have face to face contact, we play a crucial role in a patient’s journey”.

“Laboratories are also responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of blood transfusions and other medical procedures that require blood products. They perform rigorous testing to ensure that all blood products are free from infectious agents and are safe for use.”

The Laboratory is divided into four different disciplines, Clinical Biochemistry, Haematology, Blood Transfusion and Microbiology. The staff within these areas play a vital role and their work is essential in providing patients with accurate and timely diagnoses, as well as safe and effective medical treatments.

When asked about her job role, Biomedical Scientist, Sarah Mckee said, “As a Biomedical Scientist I enjoy making a significant contribution to patient care. With lab results contributing to approx. 70% of medical decisions it is a fast-paced, very interesting and rewarding career.”