East of England trusts digitise pathology services

Published: 4-Jul-2022

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust collaborate with Sectra to deliver cloud-based pathology service

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust will collaborate with medical imaging technology partner, Sectra, to deploy digital pathology services.

The two trusts based in the East of England will transform pathology services for a population of more than a million people following a new agreement signed in April.

As a result, pathologists working at both trusts will be able to better collaborate as they move away from microscopes and glass slides to analysing high-resolution digital images accessed from almost anywhere.

The move to Sectra’s digital pathology solution will support healthcare professionals in delivering timely diagnoses for patients.

Rather than having to wait for glass slides to be transported from one site to another, specialists will be able to easily and quickly access digital images of patient tissues to carry out their reports.

And multi-disciplinary teams will also be able to view images without delay, while the trusts will be able to pool their pathology resources more effectively to make best use of capacity while improving working flexibility through home working.

Sarah Rollo, pathology project manager at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of being able to access slides remotely and the ability to provide flexibility and resilience in our service.

“Our consultants will have the ability to report routine and urgent work from home shortly after it has been issued out of the laboratory.

“Consultants will be able to work collaboratively on cases from remote locations with simultaneous access to view and annotate patient slides.

“As a district general hospital, a proportion of our patients are referred to specialist hospitals and improved data sharing with these specialist centres will improve the turnaround time in the patient’s pathway.

“Digital pathology has also facilitated the introduction of digital processes within the laboratory, reducing the need for manual transcription and improving patient safety.”

Dr Yinka Fashedemi, clinical lead for cellular pathology with East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, added: “This new technology will allow our staff to analyse and share samples remotely, in turn enabling us to further improve the service we provide by making sure our patients receive their test results as quickly as possible.

“It will also make it easier to work in collaboration with colleagues based at specialist hospitals to gain second opinions so that patients can begin any treatment they may need promptly.”

The digital programme is expected to support specialist pathways, such as cancer services, covering around 1.5 million examinations per year and paving the way for introducing emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, into the diagnostic process.

The trusts will be the first in the UK to deploy a digital pathology solution using Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, with a fully-managed service provided by Sectra minimising IT and infrastructure burdens for the trusts.

Significantly, this will allow the trusts to make use of archive storage facilities now available in the cloud that will help to manage high volumes of data associated with digital pathology at a sustainable cost.

Jane Rendall, managing director for Sectra in the UK and Ireland, said: “NHS diagnostic services are undergoing the biggest transformation seen in decades, if not centuries, as disciplines like pathology digitise.

“East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are at the forefront of that journey and are particularly innovative in their use of cloud computing to ensure their programme remains scalable and sustainable.”

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