Norfolk hospital unveils two new units

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and patients with heart failure are among those who stand to benefit as a Norfolk hospital today unveils two new multimillion pound facilities.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has a new fully-automated blood sciences laboratory as part of a long-term �10m project which will see the hospital increase the number of tests it offers so that more people can be treated at home.

It will also officially open its new aseptic suite today, which is where chemotherapy preparations for cancer patients are produced and means it will have the capacity to meet the increasing demand for this service so patients do not have to travel to Norwich or Cambridge.

Valerie Woods, clinical support divisional manager, said: 'This is a really exciting time for the trust. After recently gaining foundation status this is the icing on the cake and means we have got the facilities we need for our local community.'

The new blood sciences laboratory replaces an old one that was operating close to full capacity and at present the hospital analyses approximately 3,000 samples every day - with half of those from the hospital and the other half from surrounding GP practices. This can now be doubled to at least 6,000 samples per day, and could be extended to more than 10,000.

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Samples are barcoded and loaded on to a track and automatically tested, and GPs can access the results the same day if required.

Dr Jane Keidan, consultant haematologist and clincical lead for pathology, said: 'It will enable us to move the lab forward and bring in new tests. It frees up the scientists here to be sicentists rather than just production line workers doing tests.'

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Dr Keidan said staff will be able to spend time developing new tests, like the Brain Natriuretic Peptide test, which the hospital thinks it is the first in the East of England to offer and which is used in the management of patients with heart attacks.

She said: 'A lot of these newer tests enable us to keep people out of hsopital and manage their care in the community.'

No staff will lose their jobs as a result of bringing in the automated system.

The new laboratory has been provided through a 10-year contract with Siemens Healthcare. The value of the contract has not been revealed, but the hospital is confident that it represents large savings for the trust, because Siemens has the bulk capacity to keep the equipment up to date and maintained, and to provide the consumables, and because it is a contract the hospital can claim back VAT, which it could not have done if it had bought the equipment outright.

Also being officially opened today is the new �2m aseptic unit - a 268sq m controlled environment suitable for producing sterile pharmaceutical products.

With many cancer patients living longer, it means patients are having to come back for for their second, third or fourth courses of chemotherapy, and this had led to an increase in demand.

Charles Barsted, chief pharmacist, said: 'Some of these drugs only have a two or three hour shelf life so we can't buy them from somewhere else. We will be able to make more so that people aren't travelling to Addenbrooke's or Norwich and feeling sick on the way home too.

'The number of patients being treated with chemotherapy is greatly increasing and there is every indication that will continue and this new unit means we can keep up with demand.'

The new unit has two rooms for making chemotherapy preparations, which means that if one cannot be used there is always backup. It also has two rooms for radiopharmacy, where radioisotopes are prepared before being used in diagnosis or treatment, as well a room for preparing biologicals and for making special intravenous feeds for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The hospital has made two videos of the new facilities, which can be viewed on the YouTube video sharing website by searching on it for 'qehkl'.

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