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Code of Practice

Recommended code of practice for cytology laboratories participating in the UK cervical screening programmes

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The UK NHS Cervical Screening Programmes (NHS CSPs) have been extremely successful in reducing both the incidence of and mortality from cervical cancer in women in the UK, by detecting pre-cancerous changes, which if left untreated may develop into cancer. Whilst the cervical screening laboratory is only one element of the programme it has a pivotal role, and previous versions of this code of practice (CoP)1 for cytology laboratories, and its predecessor the British Society of Cervical Cytology (BSCC) CoP2, have been instrumental in providing common principles and standards for laboratories to work within, irrespective of their geographical location. Over time, the screening programmes in the constituent parts of the UK have developed different approaches to screening women and these differences are, wherever possible, captured and illustrated within this document.

The British Association for Cytopathology (BAC) code of practice was last updated five years ago, and while much of the guidance remains relevant, there have been such significant changes to both the technology and terminology used within the UK in recent years, that the BAC felt a significant update was required if the CoP was to remain relevant. It is intended that this version of the CoP will be more concise and easier to update, in order to reflect any future changes to the NHS CSPs. It is anticipated that regular reviews will be undertaken, with appropriate revisions, rather than completely rewriting the document on a periodic basis.

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