Inspection creates a "level playing field" in which accredited laboratories must meet appropriate criteria. But the quality of service may vary between laboratories, and to ensure that you are receiving the best quality service, there are some simple steps that you can take for yourself.
- Observe the collection process for the specimen. Were you asked to identify yourself? Was the specimen properly labelled? Were you given clear and adequate instructions if you collected the specimen yourself?
- Ask where the tests are going to be performed. Some tests are performed in the GP surgery or in the ward or clinic, others will be sent to a hospital or commercial laboratory. Ask your doctor if he knows whether the laboratory is properly accredited for the tests he wants them to do. You can check laboratory CPA accreditation for yourself at www.cpa-uk.co.uk.
If the test is being carried out on the spot by a doctor or nurse, ask them to explain the procedures for ensuring that the results are correct e.g. what training the person undertaking the test received. Ask whether an accredited laboratory looks after the equipment that is being used, and ensures that it is performing correctly.