In the beginning
In 2013, Malcolm Robinson, a biomedical scientist in blood transfusion from Western Sussex NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, was asked to give a tour of his laboratory to Harvey Baldwin - a 7-year-old boy who was undergoing treatment for leukaemia at Worthing Hospital. Harvey regularly had to attend the hospital for blood tests and transfusions and was keen to know what happened to his blood samples.
Malcolm arranged a tour where he presented Harvey with a lab coat making him a ‘Trainee Scientist’ for the afternoon. He got to watch his own blood sample being processed as well as looking at the various machines and equipment. Harvey thoroughly enjoyed his visit and asked questions throughout. It gave him and his parents a deeper understanding of his care.
The visit to the laboratory was also rewarding for the staff working in the department. They all reported that it was lovely to put a face to a name that they had seen so often.
In Harvey’s memory
Malcolm worked hard to share the benefits of Harvey’s Gang tours with the wider profession and, by 2018, he got 40 laboratory sites across the UK running them.
By the end of 2022, the number of sites that have ran Harvey's Gang tours is around 140 ensuring hundreds of young patients in hospitals around the country have been treated to tailored visits to their local laboratories. They get an insight into their samples being processed, including haematology, chemistry, blood transfusion and morphology. They can even bring their own blood samples and watch them undergo analysis and meet the team involved. Each patient gets a goody bag and an attendance certificate, and the all-important lab coat.
It’s not just the children that benefit; it helps the wards and pathology to improve their engagement with patients and their parents, and to build stronger internal relations and a better understanding of each other’s work.
As of April 2023, as Malcolm retires and the charity is dissolved, the trustees have entrusted the IBMS to take over the running of Harvey's Gang. As custodians of the initiative, our aims are to ensure that every young patient has access to the tours so that our members can also benefit.