A vital part of the process

Gill Robson and Ibrahim Nawroz
Gill Robson and Ibrahim Nawroz

A TEAM of over 190 highly-skilled staff are responsible for diagnosing and determining the best treatment for most of the patients at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital – but the chances are you’ll never meet them.

It’s in the laboratories where samples and specimens are tested and examined to find out exactly what is wrong with someone. In fact, the scientists working in these labs diagnose about 70 per cent of patients’ diseases and disorders.

A sample is examined

A sample is examined

In the Cellular Pathology lab, scientists study tissue samples to identify diseases such as cancers. If someone has a lump removed it is sent here for testing.

The scientists will “process” the piece of tissue to enable them to take a thin slice (about a hair’s thickness or less) to put on a slide and study under a microscope.

Ibrahim Nawroz, consultant pathologist, said: “From this we can give an appropriate diagnosis. We can identify whether it is cancer, and what cancer it is.

“We give the clinician all the information required to decide what should happen next for this patient, whether it is nothing, more surgery, chemotherapy etc.”

At work in the hi-tech laboratories

At work in the hi-tech laboratories

Gill Robson, senior biomedical scientist, stressed the importance of catching cancers early to prevent them spreading.

“Someone with a mole which has changed, for example, it can be removed and sent here,” she said. “If it’s cancerous, we can tell if we’ve got the whole lot or whether it has spread. The earlier removed, the less likely it will have spread.”


Microbiology is based alongside clinical pathology at the south lab, in part of the old building. Here scientists test everything from urine, faeces and what patients have coughed up, to swabs from grazes, bits of bone and fluid taken from the spine. They can identify the organism causing the problem and identify the best treatment.

Clinical biochemistry and haematology are based in a new purpose-built north lab.

Thousands of blood tests are carried out here every day, with many samples arriving through an innovative tube system.

Nursing staff fill in the details on the computer system and print out a unique barcode which is attached to the sample before sending it down the tube to the lab. Lab staff can then scan the barcode to find out what tests need to be carried out and can have results available within around 10-15 minutes.

The blood transfusion service is also based here, where blood is tested against a patient’s blood to ensure an exact match.

Philip Wenham, head of department for clinical biochemistry, said the facility had been rated one of the best in the UK by Clinical Pathology Accreditation inspectors.

He said: “By working in one central lab, we can turn round samples much quicker, which benefits patients in the hospital, as well as those of GPs who also send samples to us for testing.”