Dr Stephen Troup, Scientific Director of the Hewitt Fertility Centres, gave an interesting presentation at the recent Association of Biomedical Andrologists' conference in Leeds - “ISO 15189 – A survivors guide”. In it he illustrated his first hand experiences of the difficulties - and subsequent benefits - of attaining this high level of accreditation for his labs.

Steve thought that progression from Clinical Pathology Accreditation to ISO 15189 was inevitable; the change though meant even more focus on technical and clinical aspects, comprehensive reporting processes, and more frequent assessments for the clinics. It brought the inevitable increased need for detailed Training records, upgrades in Equipment Maintenance standards, and more H & S emphasis. The quid pro quo for all this extra work for laboratory staff was the increase in real benefits, including enhanced customer and peer recognition, the adding of real day to day value from the deeper assessment reports plus more consistent quality performance. Additionally, there were knock on benefits for customers and users, which included the comfort of greater transparency and the assurance that every test within the laboratory's scope of accreditation is fit for purpose. However, one interesting conclusion was that for The Hewitt Fertility clinics - including their five ‘specialist’ Andrology Labs undertaking some 10,000 total semen analyses pa - the real additional cost of ISO 15189 was the equivalent of an additional £4 per test – an increase of some 10-15%.

Steve has worked in the field of clinical embryology for nearly 30 years and as well as being a practising clinical embryologist and Scientific Director has held the prestigious positions of Scientific Advisor to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is an Honorary Senior Fellow and Visiting Reader at Edge Hill University and an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Liverpool.

Some of the other speakers at the ABA annual meeting included Paul Hancock, Stephanie Brooks from Liverpool Women's Hospital and Louise Davidson of UKAS. Planer plc were also at the ABA, giving attendees the opportunity to find out more about Medical Device controlled rate freezers and incubators and, relevant to the conference talks, real time monitoring. Planer's flexible alarm and monitoring systems help users look after samples as well as look after the laboratory and even the people in the laboratory. The ReAssure package has the option for cloud based, compliant storage of monitoring data - which allows users to report alarm events and associated annotations at the touch of a button, reducing the regulatory burden. A new product on show was the Sperm Selection Kit, to help improve pregnancy rates helping to selectively remove apoptotic spermatozoa from sperm preparations.

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