A teal and white icon of a scientific microscope representing Laboratory, Diagnostics and Infection or Laboratory Strengthening.



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What is laboratory strengthening?

Laboratories have often been described as the backbone of strong health systems and are a vital component in detecting and monitoring treatment for diseases across the world. Well-functioning laboratories allow clinicians and prescribers to make robust decisions based on empirical evidence and in most cases, reduce the time from initial presentation, through to diagnosis, and eventually treatment. Trust and confidence within laboratories and the data they produce is built through quality improvement initiatives and maintained through obtaining internationally recognised accreditation. Weaker laboratory services with limited capacity have the potential to undermine confidence not only in laboratory produced evidence, but the wider health system. It is therefore critical that laboratory strengthening is an essential component in any public health system. Failing to do so has the potential to impact not only national health systems, but global health more widely.


Programme Scope

This programme seeks to strengthen laboratory systems against International Health Regulation core capacities. It does this through a variety of activities across clinical and environmental microbiology. Closely linked to both the IPC and AMR workstreams, the laboratory strengthening workstreams seeks to train stakeholders and equip them with enhanced technical skills and knowledge.

This programme engages with a variety of stakeholders across the UKOTs health systems, from laboratory technicians and clinicians to professionals engaged in public health and environmental testing. In addition, the programmes collaborates and engages with regional bodies such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency. Further support is facilitated through engagement and a continued dialogue with technical experts from within the UK and strengthened through access to additional networks and resources. The programme seeks to enhance laboratory competencies and promote coordination and collaboration across the UKOTs to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases to mitigate threats to public health.


Workstream Focus

  • To improve the detection and management of infectious diseases and to instil a culture of stewardship and surveillance in addressing antimicrobial resistance.
  • To support the development of laboratory quality standards, biosafety, and access to accreditation.

Example Projects

  • Laboratory diagnostic capacity review across the UKOTs and contributions to UKOT joint situational analysis
  • Implementation of COVID-19 testing capacity during the pandemic
  • Introduction of closed novel diagnostics, for example PCR for COVID-19
  • Support for laboratory accreditation in British Virgin Islands and the Falkland Islands
  • Implementation of standardised antimicrobial susceptibility testing in Montserrat
  • Strengthening cholera laboratory diagnostics in the Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Environmental testing strengthening staff exchange between Anguilla and Cayman Islands
  • Implementation of FilmArray syndromic diagnostic testing in 8 territories
  • Antimicrobial susceptibility testing practical workshop in Anguilla for the 6 Caribbean UKOTs and Bermuda.


Under this workstream are two associated networks:

UKOTs Clinical Microbiology and Laboratory Network

This network meets quarterly and consists of microbiology professionals from within the laboratory setting across the UKOTs. These include consultant microbiologists, and guest speakers from UKHSA and PAHO. Participants discuss the latest developments in laboratory diagnostics, standards, and accreditation, in addition to laboratory biosafety, security and emerging infectious threats. The Network meets using the MS Teams platform with secretariat and chairing by the UKOTs Laboratory Technical and Quality Manager. For more information or to join the UKOTs Clinical Microbiology and Laboratory Network, please email UKOTs.Programme@ukhsa.gov.uk.

UKOTs Environmental Testing Network

This network meets quarterly and consists of a variety of cadres within a laboratory as well as UKHSA team members. Participants discuss environmental testing portfolios and capacity, with a focus on water and food public health microbiology. The network also discusses biosafety in addition to laboratory standards and accreditation, with guest speakers joining from UKHSA. The Network meets using the MS Teams platform with secretariat and chairing by the UKOTs Laboratory Technical and Quality Manager. For more information or to join the UKOTs Environmental Testing Network please email, UKOTs.Programme@ukhsa.gov.uk.

Training Opportunities


Key Resources