National Quality Assurance Advisory Panel in Cellular Pathology

The Cellular Pathology National Quality Assurance Advisory Panel (NQAAP) oversees the running of External Quality Assurance Schemes in Histopathology and Cytopathology. The schemes include individual based interpretive EQA schemes that assess the quality of interpretation of microscope slides by pathologists, and technical schemes which assess the quality of the technical work laboratories produce. The panel oversees the annual activities of each scheme registered with the College, including the investigation of persistent poor performance by individual pathologists or laboratories.

Read further information about the role of individual based interpretive EQA in appraisal and laboratory accreditation.

Individual based interpretive EQA in appraisal and laboratory accreditation.

The role of individual based interpretive EQA in pathologist appraisal and laboratory accreditation: summary of advice 

There have been important developments in the role of individual based interpretive EQA schemes since the publication of the Pathology Quality Assurance Review in 2014.

This page summarises the current guidance for these schemes in relation to appraisal and accreditation, and brings together important aspects of the four relevant documents in one place. 

Individual based interpretive EQA and UKAS laboratory accreditation

The role of individual based interpretive EQA in Cellular Pathology in the assurance of clinical staff competence for UKAS accreditation purposes was clarified in a joint document from the College and UKAS published in 2017. 

This document indicates that:  

‘Laboratories should be able to have confidence in the clinical competence of their staff through the appraisal having taken place and the evidence (for medical pathologists) being accepted as sufficient for revalidation.’ 

The record of the fact of participation in individual interpretive EQA schemes may be shared, while the detailed record of performance in the schemes is confidential and considered during appraisal in the context of other input items relating to the pathologist's competence and performance. 

Individual based interpretive EQA and appraisal

There is further guidance for pathologists and appraisers in the following document. 

This document states that:

‘Pathologists who can participate in EQA schemes that address individual performance should provide evidence of their participation in relevant schemes on an annual basis.’

It goes on to state that such schemes provide an evaluation of personal performance which is likely to provide a formative element of the appraisal with potential for reflection and learning, and which could indicate areas of professional development relevant to the next year's Personal Development Plan. 

The full detailed document describing the operation of individual based interpretive schemes is available below.

Individual based interpretive EQA and BMS staff undertaking histopathology reporting

The  joint statement from the College and Institute of Biomedical Science on the role of biomedical scientists in histopathology reporting sets out the governance arrangements for individual based interpretive EQA participation by biomedical scientists.

It states that biomedical scientists who have completed the Advanced Specialist Diploma in Histopathology Reporting and have been appointed to a reporting role are clinically responsible to the medical head of department and are expected to participate in the relevant interpretive EQA Scheme as required for medically trained staff.

This document indicates that a discussion of their EQA results should be a mandatory part of their annual NHS appraisal. Although not specifically stated, it is implicit in this context that the arrangements for addressing persistent substandard performance, including actions by the scheme organiser triggered by first and second action points, should be identical to those for medically trained staff. 

J Wyatt

Interim Chair: Cellular Pathology NQAAP April 2020.

Chair: Dr Paul Barrett

Committee Members