AIMS: To describe the design and organisation of a voluntary regional external quality assessment (EQA) scheme in histopathology, and to record the results obtained over a three year period. METHODS: A protocol is presented in which circulation of EQA slides alternated with teaching sessions. Procedures for the choice of suitable cases, evaluation of submitted diagnoses, and feedback of results to participants are described. The use of teaching sessions, complementary to the slide circulations, and dealing with current diagnostic problems is also outlined. RESULTS: Participation rates in the nine slide circulations varied between 66% and 89%, mean 85%. Overall scores were predictably high but 4% of returns, from 10 pathologists, were unsatisfactory. These low scores were typically isolated or intermittent and none of the participants fulfilled agreed criteria for chronic poor performers. CONCLUSIONS: This scheme has been well supported and overall performances have been satisfactory. The design was sufficiently discriminatory to reveal a few low scores which are analysed in detail. Prompt feedback of results to participants with identification of all "incomplete" and "wrong" diagnoses is essential. Involvement of local histopathologists in designing, running, and monitoring such schemes is important.
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