Laboratory functions

We operate more than 60 routine and specialist laboratories from which we deliver our pathology and testing services, and we employ scientists and laboratory staff across a wide range of specialities. Expand each section below to find out about typical roles within each group:

A Clinical Scientist is an experienced clinical / scientific / technical professional, who has developed their skills and theoretical knowledge to a high standard, performing a highly complex role and continuously developing clinical, scientific or technical practice within a defined field.

Typically they would have their own caseload or work area responsibilities. In addition, an enquiring mind, strong research skills as well as excellent communication and 'people' skills are pre-requisites in the role. Clinical Scientists will usually have already attained a Masters or higher postgraduate qualification or equivalent vocational / professional qualifications and awards – in fact, 50% of Trainee Clinical Scientists employed via the national recruitment process already have a doctorate when they enter the profession.

To become a qualified and registered clinical scientist you will usually need a first or upper second class honours degree. Almost all Trainee Clinical Scientists are employed by the Regional Health Learning Education and Training Boards (LETBs) and placed in appropriate laboratories for their training and study part-time for an MSc over a three-year period.

During their training the Trainees rotate through the disciplines appropriate to their discipline. For example, for Blood Science trainees these are three month placements in: Clinical Biochemistry, Immunology, Molecular Pathology and Genetics and Haematology and Blood Transfusion. Viapath is one of the few laboratory organisations capable of providing all of these placements in-house by utilising the complete range of laboratories across our hospital sites.

After three years Trainee Clinical Scientists are eligible to submit their training portfolio for HCPC registration and to begin studying for the Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath).

Biomedical scientists carry out a range of laboratory and scientific tests to support the diagnosis of disease.  In a blood sciences department supporting A&E for example, your work would include testing for emergency blood transfusions and grouping, as well as taking tests on patient samples that may have overdosed, had a heart attack or a thrombosis.

Cancer, diabetes, blood disorders, anaemia, meningitis, hepatitis and HIV are just some of the medical conditions that you could be investigating as a biomedical scientist. You would also perform a key role in screening for diseases such as cancer, identifying those caused by bacteria and viruses, and monitoring the effects of medication and other treatments.

You would learn to work with computers, sophisticated automated equipment, microscopes and other hi-tech laboratory equipment and you would employ a wide range of complex modern techniques in your day-to-day work.

To work as a Biomedical Scientist you will need effective communication and team working skills. You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes. If you work in a role with responsibility for resources (such as staff, budgets or equipment) you'll need excellent leadership skills. 

Entry will usually require an accredited integrated BSc degree in Healthcare Science (life sciences) or an honours degree in biomedical science. Many BMS staff will have completed a full-time Masters degree and those who have not are encouraged to enrol in a part-time MSc course to enable future progression to higher grade BMS posts. Examples of such courses include day release courses (e.g. Westminster University which is one day a week for 30 weeks a year over two years) or distance learning courses (e.g. Greenwich/Ulster Universities). All of these courses require completion of a research project that is funded by the employer.

It is also possible to start work with A levels in life sciences and/or equivalent as a trainee biomedical scientist, whilst studying for a degree on a part-time basis. Trainee BMS staff are required to complete a portfolio to obtain HCPC registration. This entails rotation through appropriate areas of the laboratory with at-the-bench training plus structured assessments and a final viva with an appointed external assessor.

For more information on a career as a Biomedical Scientist go to

A Cytology Screener works in Cytopathology a branch of pathology that studies and diagnoses disease on the cellular level using a light microscope. Cytology Screeners deliver scientific and technical procedures and/or clinical care under the direction of a regulated practitioner. They may work independently or as part of a team with practice appropriate for statutory regulation. They will be studying for or have attained a relevant foundation degree, BTEC HND or equivalent level vocational qualification or award. 

To work in cytopathology you will need effective communication and team working skills. You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes. Although you would be supervised by a biomedical scientist, you would be responsible for the accuracy of your own work, and so a high level of responsibility is involved.  To become a competent cytology screener healthcare science staff require an intensive period of training and after two years are assessed externally in form of an external screening exam.

A Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) is a key support worker in a laboratory or department.  They work within a team and prepare, and in some cases process samples within a pathology laboratory. They also utilise pre-analytical systems in order for biomedical scientists (BMS) or Medical Laboratory Scientific Officers to process the biochemical tests requested on the sample. The majority of an MLA's time is spent in processing specimens. As such, the MLA has to have excellent knowledge of their particular sample acceptance policy. The key qualities required in the role are being well organised, having a keen eye for detail, good communication skills and being a team player.

A higher level MLA has responsibility for performing a wide range of tasks within a laboratory area and may work without close supervision. They may also provide day to day supervision of less experienced MLAs. 

Although there are no formal entry requirements, a range of GCSEs (or equivalent qualifications) would be beneficial in the role.  Many entrants have National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ). Recently Westminster University and others have introduced BSc courses in Biomedical Sciences that are distance-based and therefore suitable for part-time study. These courses require submission of a research or library based project supported by the employer.

Phlebotomists are specialised clinical support workers/assistant healthcare scientists who collect blood from patients in clinics or in-patient wards for examination in laboratories, the results of which provide valuable information to diagnosing illness.

Phlebotomists are responsible for taking blood without harming the patient or disturbing the nursing care they are receiving at the time. They also need to ensure the blood is taken correctly, as if specimens are damaged during collection, test results may be unobtainable or worthless. Once the blood is taken, phlebotomists are also responsible for directing the specimen to the correct laboratory.

To become a Phlebotomist you should have a good range of GCSEs with a minimum of grade C in English and Mathematics.  Training will be largely on the job and will include learning to take blood from different patient groups, including children and the elderly.

Our unique Phlebotomy training program focuses on teaching the fundamentals of venepuncture, and putting this knowledge into practice. 

Last updated: 08/01/2014