Efficiency in pathology laboratories: A survey of operations management in NHS bacteriology

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years pathology laboratory services in the U.K. have experienced large increases in demand. But the extent to which U.K. laboratories have introduced controls to limit unnecessary procedures within the laboratory was previously unclear. This paper presents the results of a survey of all 343 NHS bacteriology laboratories which records the extent to which such operations management controls are now in place. The survey shows large differences between laboratories. Quality controls over inputs, the use of screening tests as a culture substitute, the use of direct susceptibility testing, controls over routine antibiotic susceptibility testing, and controls over reporting of results all vary widely. The survey also records the prevalence of hospital antibiotic policies, the extent to which laboratories produce antibiograms for user clinicians, the degree of computerisation in data handling, and the degree of automation in processing specimens. Finally, the survey uncovers a large variation between NHS labs in the percentage of bacteriology samples which prove positive and lead to antibiotic susceptibility tests being carried out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-543
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • automation
  • efficiency
  • operations management
  • pathology laboratories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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