• Digitised NHS pathology is live in the North of England
    Darren Treanor
  • Craig Sayers
  • Phil Wood

News & Views

Digitised NHS pathology is live in the North of England

Dec 11 2023

Six NHS hospitals, together serving 3 million people in West Yorkshire and Harrogate, have launched a joint digital pathology service which could result in faster cancer diagnosis for people living in the area, irrespective of their proximity to a specialist cancer centre. This major milestone, the culmination of three years of work led by the National Pathology Imaging Co-operative (NPIC) based out of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is one of the largest IT projects the NHS has embarked upon in over 20 years.

 The rollout at the West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts (WYAAT), expected to be fully operational by Q1 2024, could herald the wider adoption of digital pathology across the NHS.

The WYAAT scheme will involve ultra-high definition scanning of more than 750,000 samples each year, enabling results to be securely shared between hospitals experts across the network, superceding transportation of glass sample slides between hospitals.

Professor Darren Treanor, NPIC Programme Director and Consultant Pathologist and Honorary Clinical Professor, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, commented: “World leading technology is now available in West Yorkshire to accelerate cancer diagnosis. As a specialist cancer centre, we receive hundreds of patients’ samples per month from hospitals in the region, with typically 10-day delays. Now, an image can be shared securely in an instant – two experts can even look at a digital image of the same slide, at the same time. We are proud that NPIC are the first in UK to embark on a single digital pathology system of this size, providing a scalable infrastructure that could support digital pathology for the whole NHS."

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust houses the largest repository of digital pathology slides in the UK, having digitally scanned every slide since 2018 through a partnership with Leica Biosystems. Under the WYAAT project, 15 new scanners have been deployed by the company across the 6 hospital sites, creating a world-leading secure digital pathology infrastructure, with 29 Petabytes of mirrored storage across 2 datacentres.

Professor Phil Wood, Chief Executive at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said: “We are incredibly proud to have such a strong track record in research and innovation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. This partnership with NPIC and WYAAT will allow us to take our ambition even further. We know that early diagnosis means better treatment options and this gets harder the further away patients live from the specialist centres. Working with NPIC, Leica Biosystems and WYAAT Trusts will mean all patients in West Yorkshire will have access to the best possible digital diagnosis and care.”

Dr Craig Sayers, Consultant Histopathologist based at Dewsbury and District Hospital, part of the Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust commented, “There is increased pressure and demands on pathology services everywhere. The early detection of cancer is a key NHS priority so the number of biopsy samples that require expert analysis is only going to increase. The digitisation of pathology across our region allows rapid review of biopsies taken at another site and unlocks the potential for a number of experts to collaborate in real time, accelerating this essential part of the diagnostic process and helping to improve patient care.”

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