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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.