A vital area concerned with understanding and identifying the causes of death, and assisting doctors with post mortems. Offering support to bereaved relatives may also be involved.
In hospitals, blood from donors is matched so that it can be given to patients when needed, for example during an operation. Healthcare science staff working for the National Blood and Transplant Service are also involved in the collection, processing and issue of blood components and investigate difficulties encountered with blood and tissue matching.
Healthcare science staff help diagnose and manage disease through the analysis of blood and other body fluids. They advise hospital doctors and GPs on which tests to ask for, how to use the results of the tests and the options for treatment of the patient.
Chromosomes, taken from patient cells, are studied under a microscope to see if there are any abnormalities, for example in newborn babies. Healthcare science staff also help with the diagnosis of certain leukaemias.
Cytopathology and cervical cytology
As well as screening cervical smears, healthcare science staff prepare and examine a range of other cellular samples to look for signs of abnormality.
A specialised area of histopathology (see below). Healthcare science staff prepare and examine minute tissue samples using an electron microscope, looking at and interpreting structures inside individual cells to help support or make a clinical diagnosis.
Embryology and andrology
A dynamic area dealing with infertility treatments, such as IVF, and other programmes. Healthcare science staff help collect eggs from patients and prepare them for fertilisation.
External quality assurance
Monitoring the quality of a variety of diagnostic tests. Healthcare science staff in this field are also involved in auditing and accrediting measurement programmes so that participants reach the right standards.
Haematology (including haemostasis and thrombosis)
Haematology is the study of the blood and blood-forming tissues. Healthcare science staff play a major role in the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with disorders of the blood and bone marrow, for example: leukaemia and related blood cancers; anaemia; haemophilia and other bleeding and clotting problems; and sickle cell disease.
Histocompatibility and immunogenetics
Healthcare science staff undertake tissue matching for organ and bone marrow transplants. They also develop and apply tests and treatments involving the manipulation of the immune system.
Involves the microscopic examination of tissue samples. Healthcare science staff sample and prepare tissues for examination and diagnosis using dyes and specialist techniques to reveal the structure of tissues and cells, so enabling doctors to see what the likely course and outcome of a disease such as cancer will be.
Concentrates on conditions that affect the immune system. Healthcare science staff are involved in the diagnosis and monitoring of abnormal immune responses such as allergies, leukaemia and HIV.
The study of organisms (bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic) that cause infections. A large part of the work is the identification of bacteria and the most effective drug to use for treatment. Healthcare science staff may also work in the Health Protection Agency, helping prevent and manage epidemics.
Samples of patients' DNA are examined to identify genetic abnormalities that may be responsible for inherited diseases or conditions. Healthcare science staff not only identify abnormal genes but can also predict the likelihood of them being passed on to the next generation.
Taking blood samples to help diagnose or monitor disease. Healthcare science staff in this area have specialist skills that enable them to take blood from babies, children and frail elderly people as well as other patients. They may also assist with more advanced techniques to access blood vessels for diagnosis or treatment.
The collection, processing, harvesting, storage and issuing of different types of tissue to be used to treat patients, for example skin, bone marrow, eye corneas, heart valves and stem cells. Healthcare science staff ensure tissues are handled safely and the correct tissue is issued to patients.
The scientific identification, measurement and study of the effects of harmful chemicals, biological agents and drug overdoses on the human body. Toxicologists plan and carry out investigations to determine the impact of toxic materials and advise on the treatment of affected patients.