They look at blood, urine, faeces and other bodily fluids to diagnose illnesses, monitor treatment and help patients manage long-term conditions such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Almost all inpatients, half of emergency department (ED) patients, and one-third of outpatients will have biochemistry tests during their healthcare encounter. It is estimated that 60 – 70% of all medical decisions regarding diagnosis, treatment and hospital admissions or discharge are dependent on these test results.
Like most pathology staff, the team’s hard work happens behind the scenes. But they nevertheless take great pride in the part they play in caring for patients who are receiving treatment not only in our hospitals, but also in GP surgeries across Suffolk and north east Essex.
Around 40 biomedical scientists, supported by chemical pathologists, consultant biochemists, clinical scientists and medical laboratory assistants, deliver a biochemistry service at our three sites. The majority of work comes from community GP surgeries, with the second highest contributors being outpatients and wards.
“ED workload includes testing for potential myocardial infarctions” said Opindra Pandya, biochemistry technical lead.
“This is really important as the results of the tests we carry out will determine the best treatment for each patient.
“We also help to diagnose myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, as well as monitoring treatment to make sure it is as effective as possible. Through this work, we play an absolutely vital part in the patient’s journey while helping make sure they have the best possible outcome from their care.
“The other major strand of our work comes from GP surgeries, who ask for our help to monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients and cholesterol in people on statins, for example, so that we can see if any changes need to be made to their medication to improve their health long term.”
The team has several targets in place, and must analyse GP samples within 24 hours, and work from wards and clinics within four hours. They are expected to complete 95% of ED samples within one hour – but consistently surpass that figure by completing an impressive 97% of emergency work within the expected one hour deadline.
“Our ED work is high-pressure, but staff find it satisfying to know that they are reporting important results quickly and making such a difference to patients,” added Opindra.
“It’s the same with our GP and ward samples – the team may not actually meet the patients, but they can see the difference they make to the patient pathway.
“For me personally, the knowledge that we are having a positive impact on patients is one of the best parts of the job. I also really enjoy working with my colleagues – we have such a good teams in place and it’s rewarding to see them develop as they progress through their careers.”