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Innovative medical imaging system to benefit patients in the Southern Trust

22nd June 2022

The Southern Trust Cellular Pathology team with Associate Medical Director Dr Shahid Tariq and Mr Barry Conway, Assistant Director for Cancer and Clinical services.

Southern Health and Social Care Trust are one amongst of number of Trusts across Northern Ireland to benefit from the introduction of a Digital Pathology solution that with benefit patients, staff, and regional services.

The Northern Ireland Digital Pathology project, which has been implemented by Business Services Organisation (BSO), is part of Northern Ireland’s Picture Archiving and Communication System (NIPACS), which already helps busy radiologists make important decisions, and will now also help pathologists respond to the increasing demands being placed on services.

Traditionally, the viewing and reporting of patient samples have been undertaken via analogue practices, including the manual analysis of glass slides using light microscopes.

Digital Pathology revolutionises and transforms this service by introducing a digital image.  In the Southern Trust, pathologists perform around 26,000 diagnostic tests each year.

Dr Clare McGalie, who is responsible for the Digital Pathology Project said:

“Northern Ireland is an early adopter of Digital Pathology and the first in the UK to implement this as an Enterprise Imaging service to include Radiology and Digital Pathology within the same system.

“The implementation of Digital Pathology has afforded laboratories across Northern Ireland, including our own here in the Southern Trust, the potential to work as a single virtual laboratory in line with the direction of the pathology modernisation programme.

“The ability to report digitally will lead to more efficient working and it paves the way for remote and flexible working which will encourage the recruitment and retention of current and future staff.”

Radiologists in the region already use the same PACS to examine x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs and more, all of which is also now instantly available alongside pathology images in a single imaging record, to help healthcare professionals make more informed judgements around cases.

Nicky Harvey, the Digital Pathology project manager for Business Services Organisation (BSO) said: “Digital pathology is a huge transformation for Northern Ireland. Healthcare professionals work as part of multi-disciplinary teams, so having a range of imaging and information in one system is extremely valuable when it comes to collaboration and enabling more complete diagnostic reporting.”

Barry Conway, Assistant Director for Cancer and Clinical Services said:

“We are delighted to be part of this regional project which allows for new ways of working that will lead to a more sustainable pathology service and enable further transformation.

“Remote working and home working is important in making our workforce more mobile and flexible.

“It is great to see that all four cellular pathology laboratories in Northern Ireland are now united by a single digital pathology solution which makes case review and preparation for multidisciplinary meetings much more efficient, ultimately improving the quality of patient care.”