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East of England trusts to digitise pathology following a cloud service contract with Sectra

Two NHS trusts in the East of England will transform pathology services for a population of more than a million people, following a new agreement signed in April 2022 with medical imaging technology provider Sectra.

Pathologists working at both East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, will be able to better collaborate, as they move away from microscopes and glass slides, to analysing high resolution digital images that can be accessed from almost anywhere.

The move to Sectra’s digital pathology solution will support healthcare professionals in delivering timely diagnoses for patients. Rather than having to wait for glass slides to be transported from one site to another, pathology specialists will be able to easily and quickly access digital images of patient tissues to carry out their reports.

Multi-disciplinary teams will also be able to view images without delay, and the trusts will be able to pool their pathology resources more effectively to make best use of capacity, whilst improving working flexibility for professional through home working.

Sarah Rollo, pathology project manager at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of being able to access slides remotely and the ability to provide flexibility and resilience in our service. Our consultants will have the ability to report routine and urgent work from home, shortly after it has been issued out of the laboratory. Consultants will be able to work collaboratively on cases from remote locations with simultaneous access to view and annotate patient slides. As a district general hospital, a proportion of our patients are referred to specialist hospitals. Improved data sharing with these specialist centres will improve the turnaround time in the patient’s pathway. Digital pathology has also facilitated the introduction of digital processes within the laboratory, reducing the need for manual transcription and improving patient safety.”

Dr Yinka Fashedemi, clinical lead for cellular pathology with East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This new technology will allow our staff to analyse and share samples remotely, in turn enabling us to further improve the service we provide by making sure our patients receive their test results as quickly as possible. It will also make it easier to work in collaboration with colleagues based at specialist hospitals to gain second opinions so that patients can begin any treatment they may need promptly. We are pleased to be one of the first trusts in the country to introduce this digital pathology system which will further support our staff to deliver the best possible service.”

The digital programme is expected to support specialist pathways, such as cancer pathways. It will support around 1.5 million examinations per year, and will also pave the way for introducing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, into the diagnostic process.

The trusts will be the first in the UK to deploy a digital pathology solution using Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, with a fully managed service provided by Sectra minimizing IT and infrastructure burdens for the trusts. Significantly, this will allow the trusts to make use of archive storage facilities now available in the cloud, that will help to manage high volumes of data associated with digital pathology at a sustainable cost.

Jane Rendall, managing director for Sectra in the UK and Ireland, said: “NHS diagnostic services are undergoing the biggest transformation seen in decades, if not centuries, as disciplines like pathology digitise. East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are at the forefront of that journey, and are particularly innovative in their use of cloud computing to ensure their programme remains scalable and sustainable. We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to support this transformation that will deliver significant benefits to healthcare professionals and patients.”

The contract comprises the digital pathology module of the enterprise imaging subscription service Sectra One Cloud. The solution will be delivered as a fully managed service where Sectra takes responsibility for all hardware, software, and other IT components.

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