Problems to be solved; work to be done – reducing errors and lost samples

The Anatomical Pathology laboratory at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board services the needs of a sizable local population, as well as specialist services further into Wales and other surrounding areas. Here Pathology in Practice learns how a commercial partnership has enabled significant improvements in reducing errors and lost samples by implementing new systems for sample tracking and storage.

While procedures exist in every anatomic pathology (AP) laboratory to protect samples in the diagnostic process, errors still can and do occur. There are three areas in the AP laboratory workflow where errors are known to occur frequently and where there are common inefficiencies: block archiving and retrieval,1 slide archiving and retrieval2 and pre-analytics, specifically pre-processing.3

Since 2016, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CVUHB) has been making consistent improvements and investments to address the need to ensure positive identification and tracking of samples in the AP laboratory. These changes have also had positive impacts upon productivity and helped to address case growth, despite the continuing shortage of qualified laboratory staff in the labour market and increasing budget pressure.

There were additional challenges for CVUHB in the retention and storage requirements for blocks and slides. According to The Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath), a laboratory must store blocks and slides securely (in case of recall for further investigation or treatment) for a minimum of 30 years. In some cases this retention requirement can be even longer depending upon the complexity of the case or the age of the patient. Other countries and specific healthcare systems can have even longer retention periods, up to an indefinite period. This retention requirement presents another unique challenge for CVUHB and other AP laboratories that are experiencing greater caseloads based on growing disease incidence rates.

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