To mark Healthcare Science Week Chris Leyland tells us more about the important role healthcare scientists play in patient care
Healthcare scientists help prevent, diagnose and treat illness using their knowledge of science and their technical skills. They use their expertise to help save lives and improve patient care in a supporting role or in direct contact with patients. They work in four main areas; life sciences, physiological sciences, biomechanical engineering and bioinformatics which incorporates around 50 specialisms. Northumbria Healthcare currently has four strands of healthcare science including cardiac and respiratory physiologists, medical engineers, biomedical scientists and clinical scientists who work in the various disciplines of pathology.
My role as lead biomedical scientist involves management of the haematology and transfusion laboratory service, working in a team of over 60 biomedical scientists and healthcare science support staff. Haematology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study of the cause, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases related to blood, for example anaemia, leukaemia and related blood cancers, haemophilia, other bleeding and clotting problems and sickle cell disease. The haematology discipline incorporates blood transfusion science for the determination of blood group status and for provision of appropriate blood and its components.
My career as a biomedical scientist was forged through an early interest in biology and medicine, which led to me completing a degree in biomedical science and subsequent training as a biomedical scientist, specialising in haematology and transfusion. I have been a biomedical scientist for over 30 years with 20+ of these spent working at Northumbria.
The biggest challenge over the last couple of years has been maintaining the service through the Covid-19 pandemic, however the team has risen to the challenge and despite many setbacks has continued to provide a UKAS accredited service with acknowledged continuous quality improvement.
Laboratory medicine is continuously evolving and there are exciting projects in progress including setting up digital haematology which will allow us to share digital images of blood films, enabling diagnosis of blood disorders remotely. The department is also implementing a new pathology laboratory information system which will ultimately enhance patient care. This is an exciting time for healthcare science.