Health Minister Robin Swann has today launched a new £40m Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that will significantly improve the delivery of clinical diagnostic services for key areas of healthcare.
Health and Social Care (HSC) pathology services perform around 40m diagnostic tests in Northern Ireland each year, the results of which inform over 80% of all healthcare diagnostic and therapeutic decisions for patients.
The Minister said: “A world class digital healthcare service is at the heart of our future healthcare needs, and the launch of LIMS is a shining example of transformation being delivered. LIMS is a modern and improved digital e-health solution, the first of its kind in the UK that will future-proof HSC pathology services and boost Northern Ireland’s regional diagnostic capabilities, across cancer care, blood services and COVID-19.
“The £40m investment in the LIMS system, using software from CliniSys, supports the building of a new, tailored platform. It will significantly enhance standardisation of pathology services across Northern Ireland resulting in better quality of care for every patient and will support all of our healthcare needs by providing 24/7 testing support to hospitals and GPs.
“I’m very proud of the hard work of HSC laboratory staff, a workforce of around 1,100 people who are often unseen but whose work is so critical to the majority of diagnostic and clinical pathways, even more so during the pandemic. COVID-19 has placed unprecedented demands on our pathology services and heightened the need for a modernised service which this investment provides.”
The Department of Health has been working with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Pathology Network NI on a programme to modernise pathology services. A consultation in 2016 noted that laboratory tests underpin the vast majority of patient diagnoses, and that demand will grow as HSC services respond to the needs of an ageing population, advances in cancer medicine, and the spread of genetic testing and precision medicine.
Jennifer Welsh, Chief Executive of Northern Health and Social Care Trust, leads the Northern Ireland Pathology Information Management System (NIPIMS) programme to combine the regional information applications used within HSC Pathology. She said:
“The demands on pathology testing services are increasing year on year. We have explored and consulted on how we could implement a regional e-health solution that would transform and enhance our pathology services in Northern Ireland. Today, I am delighted to say that, despite the challenges of COVID-19, our Health and Social Care colleagues and stakeholders have worked with CliniSys to successfully initiate the delivery of this new LIMS solution.”
The NIPIMS Programme team have started the implementation process of the new LIMS system, expected to go live in Belfast HSC Trust next year. Thereafter, a phased roll out will commence in each of the other HSC Trusts.
Karin Jackson, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, leads the LIMS project. She said: “Today is excellent news for our health service, and pathology services in particular. It sees us beginning to implement a regional solution that will take us from seven separate systems to a single, Northern Ireland healthcare specific, digital solution. This will enable us to better manage increasing demand, standardise reporting across the health service and ensure a better service for patients.”
Notes to editors:
- The HSC Business Services Organisation (BSO) have been taking forward the LIMS procurement process since 13 March 2020. On 30 April 2021, CliniSys was awarded the single LIMS contract following an open tender process, with contract signed on 6 August.
- The £40m investment in the new LIMS software system supports the building of a new bespoke LIMS platform and the resources to implement and train laboratory teams over a 10 year period.
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