In the first six months of a formal Internal Quality Assessment Scheme operating in the Department of Histopathology, Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool, 1005 items of data were gathered, relating to 80 cases. The scheme entails a random 2% sample of biopsy specimens being selected, each case being analysed using a structured proforma, and a numerical scoring system being allocated to all aspects of specimen handling. Technical and secretarial performance was good while the quality of clinical information provided by the requesting clinician was poor. There was a wide variation in reporting times, which related partly to the complexity of the specimen, and partly to the degree of supervision required by the reporting pathologist. Month by month analysis of reporting times showed a significant increase in reporting times associated with rotation of junior staff, but not with periods of annual leave. Pathologist performance scores were good, but close examination of components of the overall score for an individual pathologist indicated occasional areas of weakness (such as the adequacy of the macroscopic report). It is concluded that this scheme is worthwhile and its practice will be continued indefinitely. The comprehensive nature of the analysis allows for the formal identification of areas of work which need improvement, and the allocation of a formal numerical score allows improvement in these areas to be monitored. The monthly meetings provide a means whereby performance scores are fed back to the participating pathologists, and they are also of general educational value regarding histological reporting practice. It is intended that the scheme be extended to include the assessment of special stains, frozen sections, and adequacy of the report delivery service. The system is easily adaptable for use within other histopathology departments.
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