A HEALTHCARE supplier has joined forces with an electronics firm to collaborate on a new product which could potentially save the NHS £250m a year.

Quality Hospital Solutions (QHS) and PragmatIC, both based at NETPark in Sedgefield, are working together on SamplePod – a tracking and transport system for pathology samples.

Inventor and managing director of QHS, Andrew Turner, designed SamplePod after a large regional pathology lab highlighted, they wanted to develop a more efficient and time saving way of transporting their samples.

NHS Foundation Trusts receive thousands of samples per day for analysis into their pathology departments, with the samples arriving in many different types and sizes of tubes.

Transporting and processing these samples can be inefficient, as the current system involves packing specimens into several individual plastic bags along with paper request forms.

This system uses a tremendous amount of non-recyclable packaging, due to strict regulations in the healthcare industry.

Mr Turner said he was determined to find a solution to reduce waste, drive efficiency and increase capacity.

He hopes SamplePod will remove more than five tonnes of waste from one pathology lab alone .

Mr Turner said: “From talking to pathology labs and NHS experts I knew I had to design a transport method that would prevent samples from being damaged, lost or contaminated, as well as eliminate the need for plastic bags and paper request forms to reduce waste. Specimen samples come in a variety of sizes, so I came up with the concept of developing a collection pallet that could host sample tubes of varying diameters.“SamplePod holds every possible sample size securely and within one pod and can be used time and time again. By eliminating the use of plastic bags and paper request forms it removes more than five tonnes of waste from the process. It is set to revolutionise the way pathology samples are taken, transported and traced worldwide and could potentially reduce NHS costs by £250m per year.”

QHS works in collaboration with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS, Academic Health and Science Network and industry leading technology partners.

The company has teamed up with innovative electronics firm PragmatIC to develop the tracking element of SamplePod using radio frequency identification (RFID).

PragmatIC’s flexible integrated circuit technology allows ultra-low cost RFID to be added to every sample tube, giving each one a unique digital identity that can be read wirelessly.

The individual sample IDs are locked to the master RFID chip within the SamplePod itself.

Therefore, each sample can be fully traced in real time from primary care or ward, all the way through to the pathology lab.

Initially, SamplePod will be trialled with ten GP surgeries in Gateshead before being rolled out to a total of 1,600 surgeries.

Chief executive of PragmatIC, Scott White, said: “Our unique flexible integrated circuit technology is being adopted in a wide variety of novel applications, so strong partnerships are essential to enable the delivery of complete solutions. The collaboration with QHS is particularly exciting, set to save money for the NHS while simultaneously improving health outcomes. It’s been fantastic to see the support from NETPark and Business Durham in making this happen."