Former scientist will be dishing out debt advice in Huntingdon

John Pickersgill in 1981 and the present day.

John Pickersgill in 1981 and the present day. - Credit: Archant

After 40 years in the NHS working in local hospital laboratories, John Pickersgill will be offering debt advice with a Huntingdon-based charity.

John, who has worked at Papworth Hospital and spent 34 years as a senior biomedical scientist in biochemistry at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, has seen significant changes in the laboratories he has worked in over the decades.

He said both the methods he used in the laboratory and the environment he worked in, had changed enormously over the last 40 years.

“When I started in the Biochemistry Department at Papworth Hospital, most tests were done manually,” he explained.

“Thankfully we only had 20 to 30 samples a day, mostly from Papworth patients and a few from the Huntingdon County Hospital.

“There were no computers in the department, instead, all the results were handwritten on the original request form, a copy of which was returned to the ward to go into the patient’s notes.”

Now a dramatic change in technology has meant hospital laboratories can conduct hundreds of tests each day, returning results quicker,

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John said: “Over the last 40 years, the increase in the automation of analysis and the advent of computer systems for data handling has hugely increased capacity whilst using fewer staff, plus the quality of the testing has been improved by new analytical techniques and the reduction in the opportunities for human error to occur.

“The new techniques have also allowed new analytes to be measured for specific conditions – troponin and PSA are two tests which were not known when I started, but are now hugely important for the diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome and prostate cancer respectively.

“The clinicians can, and do, rely on the patients’ results in decisions on diagnosis and treatment much more now than 40 years ago.”

After four decades working as a NHS scientist John will be moving on to do something completely different following his retirement.

He said: “I will be a volunteer for a charity set up by local churches called Huntingdon Area Money Advice. I have started training as a debt adviser and in the new-year will become centre manager at our office located on the High Street, Huntingdon.”

Information about the charity is available at: