40 years working in Pathology, how has it changed?

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After 40 years in the NHS working in hospital laboratories, John Pickersgill will be hanging up his lab coat. John, who has worked at Papworth Hospital and spent 34 years as a Senior Biomedical Scientist in Biochemistry at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, has seen significant changes in the laboratories he has worked in.

The methods John uses in the laboratory and the environment he works in, have dramatically changed over the last 40 years, “When I started in the Biochemistry Department at Papworth Hospital, most tests were done manually. Thankfully we only had 20 to 30 samples a day, mostly from Papworth patients and a few from the Huntingdon County Hospital.

“There were no computers in the department, instead all the results were handwritten on the original request form, a copy of which was returned to the ward to go into the patient’s notes.”

The dramatic change in technology has meant hospital laboratories can conduct hundreds of tests a day, returning results quicker, “Over the last 40 years the increase in the automation of analysis and the advent of computer systems for data handling has hugely increased capacity whilst using fewer staff, plus the quality of the testing has been improved by new analytical techniques and the reduction in the opportunities for human error to occur.

“The new techniques have also allowed new analytes to be measured for specific conditions – troponin and PSA are two tests which were not known when I started, but are now hugely important for the diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome and prostate cancer respectively. The clinicians can, and do, rely on the patients’ results in decisions on diagnosis and treatment much more now than 40 years ago.”

After four decades working as a NHS Scientist, John will be moving on to do something completely different following his retirement. “I will be a volunteer for a charity set up by local churches called Huntingdon Area Money Advice. I have started training as a debt adviser and in the new-year will become Centre Manager at our office located on the High Street, Huntingdon.” If you would like to learn more about this charity please visit, www.huntsmoneyadvice.co.uk