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Blood science is child’s play for young hospital patients who join Harvey’s Gang

Brian Till visiting the Blood Sciences Unit

Children with long-term health conditions and needle phobias are being given the opportunity to tour the Blood Sciences Unit at Lancaster Royal Infirmary (RLI|) and Pathology Department at Furness General Hospital (FGH) as part of a national scheme.

Brian Till, 6, from Lancaster, was delighted to be one of the first young patients at the RLI to experience how a NHS Pathology laboratory operates through the ‘Harvey’s Gang’ charity.

Brian, who attends Dallas Road Primary School in Lancaster and goes to the RLI for treatment for diabetes, described his tour as “amazing” and said he was happy to have joined Harvey’s Gang.

Harvey Baldwin was an inquisitive young boy who sadly died of complications related to acute myeloid leukaemia.

Harvey Baldwin and Malcolm Robinson Blood Sciences

When Harvey was receiving treatment at Western Sussex NHS Trust (WSHT) he asked if he could see how and where his blood was tested.

Malcolm Robinson, Chief Biomedical Scientist at WSHT, heard about Harvey and gave him a guided tour of the Pathology Laboratory.

When Harvey passed away in 2013, Malcolm continued offering tours to children who wanted to be ‘Trainee Scientists’ for the day. Harvey’s Gang is now a registered charity which encourages and helps children to have an understanding of their illness and the necessity to give blood samples.

Jill Livingstone, Transfusion Practitioner, Rachael Williams, Technical Services Manager, in the Blood Sciences team at UHMBT, Pathology staff at FGH, Children’s care group staff RLI and FGH and Ania Barska, a Hospital Play Specialist for UHMBT, have set up Harvey’s Gang tours with the help of their colleagues at RLI and FGH.

Jill met Brian and his Mum, Demi Till, at Blood Sciences RLI to give them a tour.

Brian was hugely excited to be presented with his own Harvey’s Gang lab coat, clipboard, pen, gloves and safety goggles.

Blood Sciences Team members kindly guided Brian through every aspect of the Pathology team’s work and showed him the journey of a blood sample from labelling through to testing on the lab’s state-of-the-art machinery. Brian was also accompanied by Ania Barska, a Hospital Play Specialist for UHMBT.

Jill said: “Harvey’s Gang is great for children like Brian who maybe don’t understand why they are having blood samples taken.”

“By coming in and seeing what happens to their blood, it can change their whole outlook.

“We had one little girl from Barrow who would not have it done – now she can’t wait to have her blood taken.

“The children who join Harvey’s Gang love it. Some are nervous at first but by the end they are usually asking lots of questions. They go home looking proud with their lab coat on.”

Nigel Nelson, Head of Pathology for UHMBT, said: “I first came across Harvey’s Gang a few years ago and we are delighted that it is now here at the Trust.

“It’s a great idea, especially for children who need to have a lot of blood tests. I once saw Malcolm Robinson talking about Harvey’s Gang in a meeting of about 300 people and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“Pathology is often a ‘hidden’ service so it’s good that people can see what we do. Parents are usually amazed by the amount of machinery.”

The Blood Sciences team at UHMBT does approximately eight million blood tests in a year and tests around 3000 samples per day.

Brian thanked Jill for the tour and, when asked, said he would like to work at the hospital when he is older.

To enquire about Harvey’s Gang and tours at the Blood Sciences Laboratory at Royal Lancaster Infirmary or

Pathology Department at Furness General Hospital, please contact:

Jill Livingstone, Transfusion Practitioner at [email protected]
Rachael Williams, Technical Services Manager at [email protected]

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