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Outside the Lab Technology and innovation, Quality assurance and quality control, Profession

Bringing Together the Best and Brightest

What makes the Halo unique?

HSL is at the forefront of creating a “hub and spoke” system, in line with Lord Carter’s recommendations for National Health Service (NHS) pathology services in England, and the Halo is our flagship laboratory. Its location, right in the heart of London’s bioscience hub, also makes its stand out from the crowd. Being situated next door to world-class medical research institutions and hospitals, such as the Crick Institute, the Wellcome Trust and University College Hospital, reflects our ambition to provide an outstanding service. Our aim is to bring together the best facilities, latest technologies and brightest minds to deliver world-class diagnostic and pathology services.

What will The Halo include?

The Halo’s 11 floors, when fully functional, will contain a range of specialist departments and disciplines. Broadly, these departments include blood sciences (flow cytometry, biochemistry, viral serology, protein electrophoresis, haematology and coagulation), infection sciences (microbiology, parasitology, mycology and virology), cytogenetics, and genetic and molecular testing. The molecular suites will combine molecular and genetic testing platforms for over 20 individual specialties.

What were the main considerations when designing the lab?

The Halo was designed with workflow, equipment utilization and clinical adjacencies, rather than discipline, in mind. For example, the building contains a dedicated molecular unit, combining molecular and genetic testing platforms for specialties including hematology-oncology, hemophilia, virology, parasitology, microbiology, and noninvasive prenatal testing. Sharing the same equipment encourages greater interaction between formerly separate disciplines, concentrating a huge amount of expertise and allowing a range of scientists, doctors and molecular biologists to work side by side on new developments. 

Ensuring that the lab has capacity for growth is another essential part of its design – we wanted it to be future-proof, not only in terms of physical structure, but also in its ability to deliver an efficient pathology service. The administrative floors of the lab have all been equipped with the right infrastructure to allow the lab to expand if needed, with as little disruption as possible.

The building also boasts a unique GLP track – the most complex tracking configuration in the world. Designing this sample reception delivery solution was central to the design of the Halo itself. It took a great deal of collaborative working and close understanding of laboratory workflows to design and create a suitable tracking system. Support from several custom software packages ensures the system can be as flexible and efficient as possible.

What about digital pathology?

We are looking into the feasibility of using digital pathology in a number of disciplines, including hematology (for blood films and remote bone marrow review) and histology. By liaising closely with other laboratories who use digital pathology routinely, we plan to gain more information on the systems available, and consider how they might best be incorporated into our current operations.

When will Halo be fully operational?

We are nearing the end of the transition. The lab will be operated by a cross-section of staff ranging from medical laboratory assistants and associate practitioners to biomedical scientists (trainee, specialist and senior), clinical scientists, and scientific leads for specific disciplines.

What will the path of a sample look like?

Samples will follow very simple rules depending on their clinical urgency. Urgent samples will be performed at local rapid response laboratories, usually based within hospitals themselves, to ensure a fast turnaround of results.

Specialist esoteric and non-urgent tests are centralized into our off-site hub laboratory – in this case, The Halo, which has several advantages. It enables a core network of specialists to work collaboratively on the most up-to-date methodologies and techniques, while also providing a center for training and retention of staff. The Halo is also able to analyze larger volumes of non-urgent work via highly automated systems – providing an efficient and effective service.

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About the Author
Tim Herriman

Tim Herriman is Group Laboratory Director at HSL.

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