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External quality assessment slide schemes: pathologists’ experiences and perceptions
  1. D M Parham
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D M Parham
 Department of Pathology, Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Castle Lane East, Bournemouth, Dorset BH7 7DW, UK; dmprbh{at}


Background: External quality assessment schemes (EQAS) in pathology have been established in the United Kingdom for several years with the aim of raising standards.

Objective: To determine the experiences and perceptions of pathologists undertaking EQAS.

Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to histo/cytopathologists in the south and west of England.

Results: A large proportion of pathologists responding felt that the EQAS was educational, and 69% said participation had encouraged them to undertake additional educational activities. Some reservations were expressed about marking schemes. Asked if EQAS using digital images (CD-ROM or web based) rather that glass slides were valid alternatives two thirds responded no, despite 75% claiming to have appropriate IT skills.

Conclusions: EQAS play a valuable role in helping to maintain standards in histopathology and cytopathology. Some reservations were expressed about the marking schemes and further work is needed to establish a robust marking method. Significant barriers need to be overcome if digital EQAS are to be successfully implemented.

  • EQAS, external quality assessment scheme
  • NHSBSP, NHS breast screening programme
  • external quality assurance
  • EQAS
  • performance assessment
  • histopathology

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  • Conflict of interest: The author is QA coordinator for the NHS Breast Programme (Pathology) in the S&W of England.