North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust provides a national pharmaceutical quality control service through its Stockton Quality Control Laboratory (SQCL). Set up to provide services across the region, it has grown to provide national ones too. From originally providing analytical services to pharmacy and medical physics departments, the laboratory now provides services to a range of departments including hospital estates teams and sterile services. There really is a wealth of expertise in this NHS laboratory.
Putting itself on the map, SQCL has customers within the private sector too. From North Cumbria right down to London, the Stockton lab is the ‘go to’ place for service providers across the country. So what sets this laboratory aside from the rest?
Our flagship service involves a unique piece of equipment for hospital QC laboratories which allows SQCL to provide a very specialist service. The equipment, known as a MALDI-ToF, identifies micro-organisms isolated from pharmaceutical production environments. To give you an idea, this technology can test 96 samples in two hours – it can take up to two weeks to do one test using traditional methods.
The testing service has wheels too, with its own van service providing transport for samples along with its External Services section providing specialist testing services at customer sites across the North of England.
Additionally, SQCL hosts educational events, inviting clients to come along for training which is held in the on-site lecture theatre at North Tees hospital.
The service started as a small team and has since expanded to 42 members of staff, all with their own unique set of skills.
Professor Alison Beaney, who edits the NHS standards by which pharmacy aseptic units are audited across the UK, is now employed as one of the expanding team of laboratory consultants. This provides the service with ready access to an exceptionally high level of expertise, really setting it aside from others.
One reason for the success of the service is the training and dedication of its staff. The lab’s sterility technician, Terry Bloomfield, has worked at the Trust for 34 years, proving Quality Control really is a job for life.
Several staff in senior roles are testament to staff development as they have been promoted from within: Jamie Clarke who is head of the External Services section of the service and Katy Robins who is Quality Manager both joined as junior members of staff and worked their way up the ranks into senior management roles.
The laboratory provides Regional and National representation on expert groups such as the National QA Sub-Committee for Medical Gases, the British Pharmacopoeia and the National Pharmaceutical Microbiology Group. This is another example of the high regard that peers have for the expertise within the laboratory.
Wayne Goddard, Quality Control Laboratory Manager at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, explains ‘The team here at North Tees are absolutely committed to developing the quality control service we provide. It grows every single day and it’s truly exciting to watch – we are providing people with life-long careers whilst continuously improving the care delivered to people across the country, not just here in Teesside. For people like us who are genuinely fascinated by science, the equipment that we operate on site is the absolute gold standard. It makes the job exciting for us but, more than that, it means we are making the most of innovation in the 21st century to improve health outcomes for all.’