A group of Bristol scientists have teamed up with CliniSys to develop IT to support critical newborn screening.

Experts working for Severn Pathology at North Bristol NHS Trust have helped to build new modules for the WinPath Enterprise lab information system to support the delivery of the National Newborn Blood Spot Screening Programme and donor-recipient matching for organ donation.

WinPath is the laboratory information management system (LIMS) provided by CliniSys. It has been live at the trust since 2016, with the bespoke newborn screen and tissue typing module being rolled out in September 2020.

David Brixey, pathology and IM&T manager at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “There are very few systems out there to support these services, so we were delighted that CliniSys was willing to work with us to develop these new modules from scratch.

“CliniSys has really taken the time to get to understand the intricacies of how these services work and what they need from technology. Staff have found it easy to transition to the new system and it is already making a difference to services that have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

Severn Pathology is an innovative pathology network that brings together the laboratory services of four major acute trusts. It is based in Southmead Hospital in Bristol but serves health services across the South West and beyond.

The newborn blood spot screening lab processes samples taken during the ‘heel prick test’ that is offered to all babies at five days of life.

The test takes four drops of blood that is tested for nine conditions including cystic fibrosis, hypothyroidism, sickle cell disease and six inherited metabolic disorders, which are rare but can have a significant impact on the baby’s life, particularly if they are not detected early.

About 40,000 babies are born across the South West every year, and Severn Pathology’s newborn screening laboratory handles 150-200 samples a day.

Emma Smith, senior clinical scientist, said: “The blood spot test is easy to explain but complicated to do. There are many sample pathways and rules that we need to follow, because there are many factors that can affect the result.

“For example, if the baby is born prematurely or receives a blood transfusion, both can have an impact on results. By working with CliniSys, we have been able to build rules into the system to support a much safer way of working than our previous, manual processes.

“We have also been able to integrate with other IT systems, to strengthen our failsafe systems and access more information to support the safe delivery of the screening programme, so we have more information available to us and can make really informed decisions.”

The tissue typing lab is mainly used by Southmead Hospital’s kidney transplantation service, which carries out around 100 transplants per year and has a waiting list of around 250 people.

Tissue typing

Tissue typing supports organ donation and the treatment of some immune diseases. It is used to identify groups of proteins in cell membranes, known as HLA antigens, that regulate the immune system and determine whether an organ will be accepted or rejected.

Everybody on the list gives a sample every three months so the lab has up-to-date information to match with potential donors.

Richard Craven, CliniSys chief executive, added: “Newborn screening and tissue typing are hugely important departments that make a massive difference to patients. The work that we have done with Severn Pathology means that people working in these labs can use the same LIMS as their colleagues for improved clinical collaboration.

“We built these modules from the ground up, so we are very grateful for the time that Severn Pathology put in to making sure that their modules would work for their clinicians; and for pathologists across the country.”