Behind the scenes at the work of the NHS

Aldrich Arcillas, associate (laboratory) practitioner at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Aldrich Arcillas, associate (laboratory) practitioner at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

The first of a new series looking behind the scenes at your local NHS. First up is Aldrich Arcillas, associate (laboratory) practitioner at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

You might never meet him or his colleagues. In fact, you’re very unlikely to.

However, if you’ve ever needed treatment, had blood work done or been concerned you might have the flu then chances are Aldrich – or someone very like him – has been part of your care.

Seventy per cent of all patient diagnoses are based upon results produced in hospital laboratories across Northumbria Healthcare, such as the one at North Tyneside General Hospital, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. It is an enormous responsibility and not one taken lightly.

Aldrich does not have a ‘typical’ story. A man with a ready smile and even quicker laugh, he arrived in North Shields aged 12 from the Philippines having never seen snow. The weather remains a ‘challenge’ in his words! – but he always knew he wanted to make a difference; to give back.

“After university [Manchester] I came home to the North East and knew straight away I wanted to be part of the NHS but I had to work at it. I started in the catering team and then moved to be a domestic [cleaning and facilities] before being given the chance to work in the labs,” said Aldrich.

“Working here is a great equaliser, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – science doesn’t care – we are all one and the same.

“After a year as an assistant, I was promoted and now I’m on the apprenticeship management training course.”

The laboratory at North Tyneside hospital is among the most advanced in the country and houses both complex equipment and very sensitive technology. Some of it is so precise that they require quality control every two hours. It is also one of the most highly-regulated and rigorously-inspected disciplines in the NHS.

“The first task of my day is to maintain and re-calibrate the equipment – often worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s difficult and highly-pressured – because we just cannot ever be wrong – but that’s what makes it so rewarding,” continued Aldrich.

“I work on up to 3,000 samples a week. That’s 3,000 people’s stories I’m part of; 3,000 journeys I get to go on; 3,000 patients, I get to help each and every time I put my lab coat on.

“At the end of the day, I know that behind every sample or test is a real person who needs my help. There’s nothing else like it.”