The practical examination is comprised of six components taken over two days:
Twenty cases will be provided in 10 pairs of haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained slides in 20 minute slots over 3hrs 20 minutes on the second morning. The cases are selected according to a blueprint and include a balanced mixture of neoplastic and non-neoplastic material. The cases are drawn from a wide range of organ systems including upper and lower gastrointestinal tract, gynaecological tract, breast, skin, soft tissue, osteoarticular, respiratory, urological, lymphoreticular and endocrine systems. This list is not comprehensive and material from paediatric and neuropathological areas may also be included from within the systems listed above. The cases will represent a range of difficulty from straightforward cases readily diagnosable on a single H&E section, more complex cases requiring more detailed description, differential diagnosis and special techniques, and cases not capable of diagnosis on a single H&E which should prompt an approach for further techniques, extra blocks and specialist opinions. The overall level is designed to recognise pathologists close to the end of training, such that they demonstrate an appropriate approach to independent practice. The responses will be marked centrally according to pre-determined criteria, using the closed marking system.
Past slides can are available on the Leeds Virtual Pathology website.
Eight non-gynaecological cytology cases will be provided in pairs in 20 minute slots on the first morning of the examination. The responses will be marked centrally according to pre-determined criteria, using the closed marking system.
Four cases will be provided in the form of photographs of gross pathology specimens. Candidates will be provided with clinical information and will be asked to prepare their responses to specific questions and to mark on the photographs where they would take blocks. Two 20 minute slots will be provided to view 2 cases per slot, followed by a 20 minute discussion with 2 examiners. Formal written reports are not required in this exercise, which is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate their capabilities in discussing gross pathology and familiarity with block selection in the context of the RCPath Minimum Datasets.
These are 2 x 20 minute stations, one of which is conducted face-to-face with 2 examiners while the other is a written exercise only. Possible topics include management/clinical governance type and MDT type cases, although this list is not exhaustive.
These are 4 x 20 minute stations provided on the first afternoon. They will include cases which cannot conventionally be covered by a single H&E stained section and require additional stains such as histochemistry (liver and renal biopsies), immunohistochemistry (tumours and lymph nodes), immunofluorescence (skin and renal biopsies) and electron microscopy (renal biopsies, tumours etc.) This list is not exhaustive and other types of cases may also be used.
There will be 6 cases to be viewed in 2 x 20 minute stations (3 cases per station) before meeting with a pair of examiners in a 20 minute station. Candidates should make notes and provide a ‘bottom line’ diagnosis only, to form the basis for discussion in face to face meetings.
The surgical short cases and cytology are marked centrally a few days after the exam. The marking for the frozen sections, macros, long cases and OSPEs are the responsibility of the individual host departments. All elements of the exam are marked using a closed marking system.
All examiners involved in meeting with candidates will have the opportunity to provide their comments on their interactions with candidates in terms of their understanding of pathological principles and practice and their ability to communicate their understanding. This information will be provided to the lead examiner and will be included in feedback to unsuccessful candidates.
Final marks will be approved by the Examinations Committee.
Certificate of Higher Autopsy Training
In order to proceed to Phase 2, candidates have to satisfy examiners that they can dissect a cadaver, examine the organs, and provide a cause of death and/or a plan of further investigatory action (no write-up and no clinico-pathological questions at the mortuary table). Within a diet, candidates can have two attempts at this phase, which should take place in the candidate’s own mortuary or another where he/she wishes to be examined. The examiners should be one local consultant (perhaps the educational supervisor), and one from an adjacent region: the outcome will be pass or fail: i.e. satisfactory and proceed to phase 2 or unsatisfactory.
The cadaver should be a relatively straightforward case, i.e. no significant infection, not multiple operations or significantly disturbed anatomy, not decomposed, and not grossly obese. Medico-legal and consented autopsies are both appropriate. The purpose of this phase is to determine whether the candidate is competent at evisceration and dissection of a whole body (with APTs opening the skull but the candidate removing the brain, as in the 2005 exam format). The external examiner watches some or all of the autopsy dissection.
From the completion of preliminary note reading, the procedure should occupy no more than 1.5 hours for a standard case and no more than 2 hours for more difficult cases. At the end of this time, the candidate a) demonstrates the organs and normal/pathological features to the two examiners, and b) provides a cause of death and/or a plan of investigation to address the issues raised by the death. Detailed clinico-pathological discussion does not occur, and the candidate does not write the case up (unless the internal examiner so wishes, but this is not part of the examination).
The examiners decide whether or not the candidate has passed this phase and inform him/her at the time. If it is a fail, they provide constructive feedback. Two attempts at this phase are permitted per diet. Only those who pass can proceed to the phase 2 OSPE session.
The OSPE examination will take place at one location.
The OSPE tests knowledge, skills and attitudes across the eleven major autopsy pathology scenarios of:
- Sudden death in the community (including sudden cardiac death)
- Medical disease death
- Peri-operative death
- Toxicology death
- Medical Biochemical death (e.g. diabetes, renal failure)
- Alcohol-related death
- Special deaths (eg maternal, sickle cell, HIV)
- Industrial-related death
- Death in the elderly
Using case material from these scenarios, the following aspects of knowledge and competence are examined, according to a blueprint:
- Gross pathology
- Histopathology images
- Histopathology (microscopy) in real time
- Body fluid analysis
- Communication skills
- Data interpretation
- Whole Case interpretation
- ONS cause of death formulation
- Medical-legal aspects of death
- Health & Safety issues
- Human Tissue Authority and human tissue regulations
The OSPE will comprise of fourteen stations of fifteen minutes' duration including face to face communication, written exercises and microscopy.
Certificate of Higher Cervical Cytology Training
The cervical cytopathology examination is intended for candidates who wish to carry on and pursue higher training in Cervical Cytopathology. Successful completion of this component will result in the award of the Certificate in Higher Cervical Cytopathology Training (CHCCT).
The examination will consist of two sessions over one day.
The morning session: Twenty single slide cases over a period of 3hrs and 20 minutes on the morning of the examination. For each case a short history including the age of the patient, the stage of the menstrual cycle if known and any previous abnormal cervical cytology will be provided. Additional information may be provided if appropriate. Cases will be a mix of negative and abnormal slides. Candidates will be expected to provide a brief description of the findings on the slide and to make an appropriate management recommendation based on the clinical history and the findings on the slide. It is expected that candidates will use the terminology of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme and management suggested should be in line with current guidelines that do allow for some local variations in practice.
The afternoon session: The second paper for this examination will consist of a two hour written paper. The questions may include an understanding of the management of a cervical cytology laboratory participating in the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP), changes and developments within the NHSCSP, and interpretation of statistical data regarding individual and laboratory performance. It should be noted that candidates will be expected to use standard NHS Cervical Screening Programme terminology and management recommendations.