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An innovative digital pathology service that enables experts to identify cancerous tissue more quickly has been highlighted as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

Using the digital system, small samples of tissue are removed from a patient’s body during surgery or a biopsy and sent to the histopathology laboratory, where it is processed and cut into thin sections, mounted on glass slides and analysed under a microscope. This plays a pivotal role in cancer diagnosis and staging (describing the extent of cancer within the body), which helps determine treatment options. Frozen sections are done when an immediate answer is essential; for example, to determine whether tissue is cancerous to guide the surgeon during the course of an operation. The digital system speeds this process up by enabling microscope slides to be scanned at high resolution and then viewed remotely on a computer screen instead of a microscope. Slides scanned near the operating theatres at the Northern General Hospital can be viewed by experts at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, providing a faster and safer service for patients. The system has been developed and implemented by the Trust’s Laboratory Medicine and Informatics teams and is now seen as exemplar.

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