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The Microbiology Department

History of Microbiology in Oxford

Here in Oxford we have a long association with microbiological research and innovation, stretching back to 1665 when former University of Oxford student Robert Hooke was one of the first scientists to use a microscope for scientific purposes.

He later published 'Microphagia' - a book depicting the first images of microfungus.

Robert Hooke's work in Oxford led directly to the unveiling of the microscopic world of organisms by the'Father of Microbiology' Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Skip forward some 300 years, and Oxford was still at the forefront of microbiological research when, in January 1941, the antibiotic Penicillin was famously used as an effective treatment against bacterial infection in an Oxford policeman. This success ultimately led to the commercial production and worldwide distribution of Penicillin, still used to this day.

The Microbiology Department at the John Radcliffe Hospital was formed in 1979 from the merger of the microbiology laboratories from three other Oxford-based hospitals.

In 2007 the Horton General Hospital in Banbury joined the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, and the Microbiology Department in Banbury relocated to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

In November 2011 Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust merged with Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust to form Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. In the same year a Joint Working Agreement was set up with the University of Oxford.

On 1 October 2015 the Trust was awarded Foundation Trust status and became Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Each year the department processes in excess of 600,000 tests from all four hospitals within the Trust, in addition to microbiology support for the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and 115 GP practices.

Diagnostic Laboratory

The Microbiology Department at Oxford University Hospitals has passed full accreditation against ISO standard 15189:2012 under registration number 8639.

Accreditation provides formal recognition that the laboratory is competent to provide services [which are detailed in the scope of accreditation] in a reliable, credible and accurate manner.

The laboratory undergoes inspection for conformance with internationally recognised standards of ISO15189:2012 [medical laboratory accreditation].

As an accredited service our users can have confidence in the quality of the results, their traceability, comparability, validity and commutability.

For more information on accreditation to ISO15189:2012, the process and benefits it brings, please see:

The Microbiology Laboratory is on Levels 5, 6 and 7 of the main John Radcliffe Hospital, alongside independently managed, but integrated, University of Oxford research facilities. It also shares the use of the Core Automated Laboratory on Level 4.

The laboratory as a whole is managed by the laboratory manager and senior scientific staff and is divided into sections each managed by a Chief Biomedical Scientist. We have approximately ten medical staff and 70 scientific staff.

The majority of scientific staff members are Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Biomedical Scientists; they are supported by Associate Practioners and Laboratory Support Workers.

The laboratory in Oxford is committed to learning and development, and has close links with the universities in Oxford for both research and training.

For medical staff we are approved by the General Medical Council for the Combined Infection Training Program.

For laboratory staff we are approved by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) as a training laboratory for pre- and post- registration Biomedical Scientists in Medical Microbiology and Virology, along with many other post HCPC registration awards available through the IBMS.

IBMS website -

Associate Practioners are encouraged to achieve the IBMS Certificate of Achievement and Support Workers are able to apply to do vocational qualifications such as QCF and apprenticeships.