Gemma Lockyer

Job Title

Senior Biomedical Scientist

Where are you based?


Is your role clinical or non-clinical?

My role is a combination role but is primarily non-clinical. Four days a week, I work in the Microbiology lab or with the management team of the lab but one day a week I support the clinical Microbiology service.

When you were at school, did you want to join the NHS?

Absolutely, although I wasn’t sure what job I wanted to do. My Mum was a Nurse when I was a child and I always admired her dedication to helping others recover from injury or illness.

What qualifications did you have when you joined the NHS?

I had a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Biochemistry (University of Southampton) and 3 A levels (Chemistry, Biology and Maths). My first role required GCSEs only though.

How did you come to work in the NHS?

I completed my degree in Biochemistry and had decided that I wanted to work in a lab, but wasn’t sure where to start and what type of lab work I would like. The Microbiology laboratory at Basingstoke Hospital offered me a role as a Medical Laboratory Assistant, which I initially took as an opportunity to get real world lab experience before moving onto another job. However, I have been offered multiple opportunities to develop and progress over the 15 years that I have worked there.

Now I am a Senior Biomedical Scientist and act the team leader for 3 labs (two 24/7 CoVID testing labs, one each at Winchester and Basingstoke hospitals, and a serology lab which tests for infectious diseases in blood such as HIV and Hepatitis). In addition to this, I work in the lab diagnosing diseases from lab samples and work with the Doctors of my department to take calls from GPs. This is part of my training to progress further to a Clinical Scientist, which I hope to complete by the end of 2022.

Briefly explain your job

I primarily work in a non-clinical role as a Senior Biomedical Scientist. My role has three distinct parts to it:

  1. I am trained to process patient samples such as urine, tissue, blood and faeces to look for different bacteria that cause infections. This is done in a number of ways such as putting the samples onto agar plates and incubating them in different temperatures and atmospheres to find different bacteria. In order to help identify any infection that may be going on, I am trained to identify the bacteria on those plates and whether they cause infections or not. I use different agar plates to determine which antibiotics the bacteria may be sensitive or resistant to, which helps the doctors to determine which antibiotics they need to give to treat the infection. We also use other techniques such as PCR, a technique which copies DNA and makes it detectable. This is especially useful for viruses, which we can’t grow on agar plates or bacteria that are hard to detect. We also use tests that detected whether someone has antibodies to certain infections such as CoVID so we know whether they’ve had them before.
  2. I lead the two 24/7 CoVID laboratories. This involves assisting the team with issues such as communication with other teams, analyser machines breaking down, health and safety concerns, recruitment etc. This role didn’t exist before the CoVID pandemic so has evolved since I started in December 2020.
  3. Finally, my clinical role involves taking phone calls from GPs who need specific advice regarding infections – such as whether a patient needs a particular test, patients presenting with certain symptoms and which infections they should be tested for, interpreting antibiotic results and helping to decide if a patient needs antibiotics and which type would be best and explaining certain conditions or infections, especially rare or unusual ones.
What do you love about your job?

I love the troubleshooting elements, such as what to do to try and fix an analyser machine without calling the manufacturer, how best to work out what type of bacteria I have grown on my plates or what antibiotic would be best suited to successfully treat to a particular patient.

What is challenging about your role?

My role is multi-faceted, which means that I can have multiple urgent issues to handle each day, which can be quite stressful. Being in a senior position also means that the staff members I manage often think I have all the answers, which is sometimes not the case!

Is there career progression in your role and how would you get there?

There is definitely career progression, but it does typically require studying while working and some patience. This would require an accredited Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Science and completion of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) registration portfolio, both which can be done while working. My employer supports individuals to complete both of these while working, but we have a lot of staff members who would like to do this, so it takes a while.

Further qualifications are required to become a Senior Biomedical Scientist, which are typically a Master’s Degree in Medical Microbiology and the IBMS specialist portfolio in Medical Microbiology. I was supported to complete both of these while working, but that is not common for the Master’s degree due to the high expense.

What would you say to a young person thinking of joining the NHS?

It is fulfilling to know that your job is to help people recover from illness or injury. Although I’m not paid as much as if I worked in a private laboratory, working for the NHS has other benefits such as generous amount of holiday and a good pension. Working in Pathology is an interesting part of the hospital that directly impacts on patient care without having direct contact with patients, which is suited to some types of people.

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