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NHS England testing 'Lab in a Bag'

NHS England is testing a mobile ‘lab in a bag’ which would allow GPs to carry out diagnostic tests and get the results quickly themselves without having to wait on hospital labs to do this for them.

The bag - which is currently being tested out by paramedics - contains devices that can measure white blood cell count, haemoglobin, glucose, blood gases, electrolytes, and conduct urinalysis.

This will allow clinicians such as GPs to make sophisticated diagnoses on the move, identify problems and treat patients in community settings, GP practices and even in their own homes, NHS England says.

A trial at two sites began in December, although the results have not been used for the clinical management of patients. Later this year it will be used in clinical settings, and a full rollout is expected early next year.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘This is clearly a fantastic example of the type of innovation which can come about when medical experts and industry professionals collaborate. Improving diagnostics and the transference of crucial data on a patient to hospitals and GPs swiftly and at the point of being attended by a paramedic can only bring about positive shifts which should, in turn, determine more quickly the right care pathway and possibly even save lives.’

The Labkit is the result of collaboration between Surrey Pathology Services – a joint venture that involves Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – the South East Coast Ambulance Service, the Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit at Frimley Park and Conworx Technology. NHS England is also providing funding.

This article was amended at 15:00 on 31 March 2015 to reflect that NHS England did not devise the tests, but is testing them, and that they are currently being tested out by paramedics.

Readers' comments (18)

  • As well as the equipment and consumables being refunded to the practices involved, will there be additional funding for the GPs involved in looking after patients more intensively at home? Or is this another way of expecting GPs to do more and more clinical work without the funding stream to ensure there is time and sufficient clinicians and additional nursing and other community support to safely manage patients at home.

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  • Odd that we're not obliged to take blood let alone analyse it ourselves.
    Seems even the labs are getting in on the transfer of work to GP.

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) So we are expected to become Dr McCoy , Bones , of Star Trek? How long a consultation in general practice should be then with all these included?
    (2) Sensitivity and specificity of these test kits are not the same as lab tests?
    (3) Of course, cost ? Who foot the bill??? It is cut the cost reducing the number of tests in labs? It is cheaper to ask GPs to do everything ?

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  • Do GPs need this? How often is lab turnaround time (few hours) too long but patient well enough to stay at home?

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  • It sounds like a perk ' will be able to carry out' but we all know where it will end. The longer you deal with NHSE, the more cynical you get:) It would be good to be able to trust someone up there ...sigh!

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  • Will we be expected to attach a mobile MRI scanner to our car battery next whilst parked outside their house. 38 days to press the eject button on this idiot.

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  • Hey it sounds quite interesting to me. It wasn't long ago oxygen sats monitors where hospital only high tech kit which I regarded as an expensive perk and of little use out in the 'real world' ...now I have one in my bag and I carry it everywhere. Near patient testing is the future and in principle this can't be anything but a good thing.
    Ok it will cost...if it isn't funded and is too expensive it won't work. It's unlikly to be standard kit for every practice but the idea itself is admirable, why knock it?

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  • the Tricorder (from Dr McCoy of Star Trek) competition is offering $10 million for a palm sized analytical/diagnostic device ! the NHS one will have to work hard to compete.

    http://tinyurl.com/pj3e42j

    interestingly the device is patient focussed...

    The winners will be the (up to) three solutions achieving the highest diagnostic score regarding a set of 15 distinct diseases in a group of 15-30 people in three days (see Guidelines for full details). This diagnosis must be performed in the hands of a consumer, independently of a healthcare worker or facility.

    Core conditions to be diagnosed
    1. Anemia
    2. Urinary tract infection, lower
    3. Diabetes
    4. Atrial fibrillation
    5. Stroke
    6. Sleep apnea, obstructive
    7. Tuberculosis
    8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    9. Pneumonia
    10. Otitis ("ear infection")
    11. Leukocytosis
    12. Hepatitis A
    13. Absence of Core Conditions

    The Elective Set includes:
    1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
    2. Hypertension
    3. Mononucleosis
    4. Allergens (airborne)
    5. Hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism
    6. Food-borne illness
    7. Shingles
    8. Melanoma
    9. Strep throat
    10. Cholesterol Screen
    11. HIV Screen
    12. Osteoporosis

    Anyone fancy looking for a new job??

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  • And now GPs should also work as Phlebotomists, Lab Technicians, Microbiologists, Pathologists and Haematologists - another example of co-ordinated care

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  • I see the Luddites are out today
    This is just ammo for the DM "GPs resisting change"

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