West Yorkshire’s new highly automated pathology centre

A new pathology laboratory building at Leeds’s St James’s University Hospital that will serve patients across West Yorkshire was officially opened in September 2023. The highly automated facility will serve hospitals across the region, avoiding considerable duplication, and significantly speeding diagnosis and treatment for many thousands of patients annually. HEJ editor, Jonathan Baillie, visited the new Centre for Laboratory Medicine to find out more.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust describes the construction of new Centre for Laboratory Medicine at St James’s Hospital – the building was completed by BAM in July 2023, and is expected to be fully operational this summer (2024) – as ‘a significant milestone in regional healthcare’. This is because the 450-500 staff that will move into the £35 m, threestorey building over coming months will be undertaking pathology work not only for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, but also regionally for the Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust and Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

In a press release issued on 26 September, the day the building was officially opened, the Trust said ‘this pioneering regional partnership, forged in collaboration with the West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts (WYAAT)’, would ‘drive innovation in testing and diagnostics’, while with its ‘advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment’, the new laboratory building would aim to deliver faster results for patients, ‘irrespective of their geographical location’. Simultaneously, the Trust said, consolidating these ‘essential pathology services’ within a single facility would ‘streamline access to routine and direct testing, while fostering improved staff working environments’ and ‘facilitating seamless continuity and transfer of patient care across the region’. 

To find out more, I visited Leeds and met Emma Storey, Project manager for the new building at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and a senior member of the ‘Building the Leeds Way’ Programme team. She started in her current project management role in 2020 because – as she put it – she wanted ‘to make a difference to the quality and environment of the buildings from which we provide care’ – and has spearheaded the project from the Trust side. The Centre will be a highly automated facility – both in terms of the equipment used to transport samples to the intended scientist or lab technician for testing once inside, and then, once the samples reach the destination bench or tabletop, to undertake the testing and analysis of samples arriving from healthcare facilities across West Yorkshire. As a highly serviced facility, the building’s design required some meticulously planned and complex mechanical and electrical engineering. To tell me more about these aspects, Emma Storey and I were joined at our meeting by Alison Ryan and Andy Munro, respectively Deputy Healthcare lead, and Associate electrical engineer, at multidisciplinary engineering business, Mott MacDonald, which acted as technical advisor on the scheme. 

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