A contract for the implementation of a new Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) across all NHS pathology services in Lancashire & South Cumbria has been awarded to Citadel Health.

The new single LIMS will replace the four standalone systems that are currently used across eight hospital sites, cutting costs and providing a common platform that will link all laboratories together for the first time. It will support 800 employees and a growing regional population of approximately 1.7 million people.

This is a major step forward for the network, moving pathology into the next generation in terms of digital opportunities for new technology and approaches to improving patient outcomes as part of the delivery of a first-class service. The new system is a key enabler in improving patient pathways across multiple health areas including cancer.  

Professor Anthony Rowbottom, Clinical Director of the Lancashire & South Cumbria Pathology Service said:

“The pathology network was awarded just under £10 million following a successful bid to NHS digital to support the procurement of the system.  This really takes us into the next level of technological advancement and will support our future aspirations for utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence.  It will also support the transition that we are planning to near-patient testing and future wearable technology.  

“Having a common platform that links all laboratories in the health economy together is an essential enabler in supporting our future plans. As Clinical Director, I champion the improvements that the new LIMS will drive, particularly the harmonisation of processes that will improve clinical decision making, patient outcomes and safety. I am really pleased that we have now awarded the contract to Citadel Health and that work can begin on making our vision a reality. We also intend to work with academic and commercial partners to drive this project forward in a timely fashion so that we start to see the benefits for patients as soon as possible.

“The awarding of the contract to Citadel Health is a major milestone and the culmination of a complex procurement exercise. I value the input that staff working across pathology have had into this process from developing the specification through to the scoring. This is a great example of what is possible through collaborative working and the process has also been very well supported by the ICS Digital Team who we are partnered with and the IT teams across the four trusts.”

Implementing Citadel Health’s Evolution vLab LIMS to perform over 42 million tests each year will realise a number of benefits. Having a common platform across laboratories will improve communication and enable access to patient data from any site, bolstering patient care by supporting the completion of full records. The seamless movement of orders and results between all pathology sites will streamline processes so that samples can be analysed in a more efficient way, reducing sample and test turnaround times.  Data can be shared across IT systems and used to inform research and enhance patient care. The new system will also support future intended developments in technology such as introducing Digital Pathology (the complete digitisation of pathology slides) and using artificial intelligence.

A common LIMS is essential in underpinning how pathology services will come together in the future. There is also a financial benefit to having one platform; each Trust within the pathology collaboration contributing to the deployment of the new LIMS will result in an overall saving compared to Trusts having to replace their own individual systems, some of which are becoming outdated.

Of all the suppliers in the procurement process, Citadel Health came out with the top score overall and demonstrated that they could provide the best technical solution whilst also representing the best value for money. The contract follows Citadel Health’s recent appointment to roll out the countrywide connected LIMS network in Wales, the largest such project in the UK to date.

Stephen Lynch, Executive General Manager at Citadel Health, said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Lancashire & South Cumbria Pathology Service, a forward-looking organisation that has shown it is ready to deliver essential pathology services in a more structured, efficient and connected way. Clinical collaboration across pathology networks cuts costs, streamlines processes and helps improve patient outcomes – delivering a win for everyone. The cooperative model will offer the rest of the country a clear example of what best practice connected pathology can achieve.”

Now that the contract has been awarded, Citadel Health will work with the Lancashire & South Cumbria Pathology Service to develop an implementation plan which will see a phased deployment of the new LIMS across hospital sites, depending on operational need and readiness. The plan will also factor in other key pieces of work that are underway, such as the replacement of blood sciences equipment. 

Once fully implemented, the new LIMS will enable the digital connectivity between the patient, community and hospitals.  It will also allow for the optimisation of the use of information to improve healthcare.