Vacuum packing has gone live at Heartlands Hospital, part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), the lead organisation for the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre (WMGMC).

The TissueSAFE vacuum packing solution is available from Menarini Diagnostics, who have also provided training and support for UHB staff.

There are several benefits to vacuum packing, including the fact that samples are preserved better due to the airtight bags. This also means the samples can be easily transported from operating theatres to pathology, and a greater number of samples are likely to pass quality control.

The process of vacuum packing also removes the need to use formalin to preserve samples, therefore reducing the risk of formalin spillages. Several hospitals in Wales have gone entirely ‘formalin free’ and there is a long-term aim to rollout vacuum sealing across all Trusts nationally.

Vacuum packing will continue as genomic testing moves into routine NHS care, when the pioneering 100,000 Genomes Project morphs into a national Genomic Medicine Service.

Vacuum packing could potentially be used for all sample collection in the future, providing benefits to all patients.

Dominic Hassett, Clinical Educator for Theatres at Heartlands, said: “We are very pleased to introduce vacuum packing for our 100,000 genome project specimens and look forward to the possibility of reducing the use of formalin in theatres even further in the future.

“Starting training to processing the first specimens took only one week, which is a really fast turnaround.

“I’d like to say thank you and well done to all the teams involved, including the genomics team, pathology, porters and theatres.”

“I’d also really like to thank Menarini, particularly Sally McGivern, Joel Bautista and Angela Chapman.”

UHB also runs three other hospital sites, with Solihull and Good Hope Hospital both expected to go live to vacuum packing by early September. At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, vacuum sealing is also being introduced, and should go live in September.

The 100,000 Genomes Project analyses and sequences the billions of letters that make up individual genomes (a person’s entire genetic code) to improve medical knowledge about some cancers and certain rare diseases.

Rare disease recruitment to the 100,000 Genomes Project will end in September 2018, with cancer recruitment continuing until December 2018, before a transition into a Genomic Medicine Service across the NHS in 2019.

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