A highly innovative, problem-solving healthcare supplier and a cutting-edge electronics firm are collaborating on a new product which could potentially save the NHS £250m a year.

Quality Hospital Solutions (QHS) and PragmatIC, both based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham, are working together on SamplePod – a revolutionary 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.  Therefore, Andrew was determined to find a solution to reduce waste, drive efficiency and increase capacity.

His innovative product, SamplePod, will remove more than five tonnes of waste from one pathology lab alone .

Andrew 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 ground-breaking 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 10 GP surgeries in Gateshead before being rolled out to a total of 1,600 surgeries in the borough.

Andrew added: “Business Durham has been instrumental in helping us to bring SamplePod to market, as they knew we were looking for a company to produce a low cost electronic tag and they introduced us to PragmatIC. Due to its good insight of the innovative businesses within NETPark we have teamed up with another business who shares our revolutionary ethos.”

CEO 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.”

NETPark is managed by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council. 

NETPark manager Janet Todd said: “NETPark is the perfect environment for innovative businesses such as QHS and PragmatIC.  We provide a dynamic, supportive and collaborative environment to help businesses grow and thrive, and it’s fantastic to be able to introduce companies who can benefit each other. 

“The joint initiative between QHS and PragmatIC reflects the collaborative campus culture at NETPark and we’re excited to see what the future holds for SamplePod.”