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The journey of the Laboratory Manager in UK NEQAS

Hi, my name is Priya Patel and I’m currently employed in the role of the Laboratory/Operations Manager in UK NEQAS for Microbiology.
What do I think of UK NEQAS? Well, I am fiercely proud of the long-established service that UK NEQAS Microbiology (and all UK NEQAS’s) provide in the UK and worldwide.
The continuous challenge of having a current relevant EQA service and delivery of EQA in an ever-changing worldwide geo-political climate means that one day is never the same as the next.
My journey towards UK NEQAS Microbiology started when I was offered the opportunity to cover maternity leave as MLA. This was a great start as I had the opportunity to learn from the ground up! The position was in a busy diagnostic microbiology laboratory and not only gave me an insight into the world of pathology but also into the world of work.
From then on I was hooked! My love for microbiology developed and I was happy when I got offered a trainee post and subsequently an MLSO 1 position. It was at this diagnostic laboratory that I was lucky enough to learn all aspects of microbiology under one roof (covering bacteriology, serology, virus isolation, parasitology, electron microscopy, food water microbiology and even media preparation). It was also in this laboratory that I got excellent training, teamwork ethic that still carries me through to today and where I made life-long friends.
After a couple of years I moved to CPHLS (Colindale) to join the UK NEQAS Microbiology team as a BMS 2. This came a bit of a culture shock as work was centred for proactive planning (rather than reactive clinical diagnostics) and required a whole set of new skills. The challenges with providing and developing EQA specimens using technical knowledge were varied and included sourcing of materials, stability, homogeneity and simulating various matrices. It also involved interacting with very engaged participants in the UK and overseas and of course the educational aspect of EQA was very satisfying. During my time at UK NEQAS, CPHLS underwent organisational changes with HPA and the now current PHE and with that my roles changed to becoming the team manager for virology and molecular schemes and eventually Laboratory Manager.
This role still has plenty of challenges with, increasing competition in EQA provision, Brexit, development of EQA to reflect new technologies and emerging pathogens. But to deliver on this will ensure that UK NEQAS microbiology remains at the forefront of EQA provision.
UK NEQAS Consortium is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and I am proud to be associated with the expertise and quality of the consortium and to be part of the celebrations.
Priya Patel
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