What public health microbiology is

Public Health Microbiology (PHM) incorporates microbiology in the field of human health and disease alongside microbiology for:

  • animals
  • food
  • water
  • the environment

PHM helps monitor known and emerging threats and the evaluation of effective interventions, to ensure public health action and policy can be developed.

This requires laboratory scientists, epidemiologists, and clinicians to generate, integrate, analyse and communicate epidemic intelligence. This diagram shows a summary of this process.


Image caption Public health microbiology – key elements and outcomes

The public health microbiology strategy for Scotland outlines the key functions of PHM in Scotland as:

  • monitoring, alert and response
  • technical expertise
  • clinical and scientific advice
  • workforce development
  • reference microbiology
  • collaboration and research

Collaboration and co-ordination are critical for the development and delivery of the strategy.

It will be necessary to bring together partners across Scotland and beyond to accurately define the challenges and to prioritise them.

This will ensure that we support the delivery of data for surveillance and provide comprehensive scientific expertise.

Reference laboratories

On behalf of our organisation, PHM have the responsibility for commissioning reference laboratory services for NHSScotland. 

They carry out this role in partnership with NHS National Services Division (NSD).

Role of the reference laboratories

Scottish national reference laboratories provide support to guide the clinical management of individual patients.

They also as provide an analytical and advisory service for the epidemiological data that is collected by the NHS and PHM.

Each laboratory maintains an archive of samples that contributes to:

  • research
  • quality assurance
  • audit
  • teaching

Frontline diagnostic testing is undertaken in local laboratories and is not centrally funded.

Specialist laboratories

Blood Borne Virus Specialist Testing Service (BBV STS)

The BBV STS is shared between two sites within Scotland.

The service is commissioned by NHS National Services Scotland (NHS NSS) to provide a range of specialist and confirmatory tests for blood borne viruses.

Further information

Visit the websites below for further information on services provided, specimen type and turnaround times.

Education and development

The outline for workforce education and development for public health microbiology in Scotland has been developed as a key component of the public health microbiology strategy for Scotland 

It contributes to the delivery of public health priorities and reform currently being taken forward in Scotland.

Last updated: 11 September 2023
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