Laboratory staff

Highly trained health professionals provide cytology, histology and HPV laboratory services for New Zealand women.

Staff working within a laboratory service include:

  • pathologists, who are medical graduates with specialist qualifications in pathology
  • medical laboratory scientists or cyto-scientists, who are bachelor of medical laboratory science or science graduates with specialised training in cytology
  • cyto-technicians, who are laboratory trained in cytology and have gained the New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science’s Qualified Medical Laboratory Technician (QMLT) certificate
  • medical laboratory scientists or histo-scientists, who are bachelor of medical laboratory science or science graduates with specialised training in histology
  • histo-technicians, who are laboratory-trained in histology and have gained the NZIMLS’s QMLT certificate.

Pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are required to participate in continuing professional development/continuing medical education programmes provided by professional bodies and external quality assurance programmes. All trainee cyto-technicians and all Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science graduates entering into cervical cytology for the first time must undertake the Vocational Registration Programme in Cervical Cytology (VRPCC). This is to ensure trainees and graduates achieve minimum standards of competency before gaining an annual practising certificate.

The VRPCC is administered by the National Cervical Pathology Training Service.

The purpose of the cytology test is to detect abnormal pre-cancerous cell changes, which are then confirmed and graded by histology for treatment by colposcopy, preventing the development of cancer.

All registered cytology staff have a major role in the screening and reporting of cervical smears. A pathologist reports abnormal cervical smears. Histology processing of tissue samples is complex and prepared by technicians and scientists for reporting by pathologists.

Scientists and pathologists are also responsible for quality assurance, teaching, management and other laboratory and multidisciplinary activities.

Cyto- and histo-technicians work under the supervision of medical laboratory scientists and pathologist staff.

information on training services

The following websites provide information on training services, registration authorities, professional and accreditation bodies and educational institutes:

Training services

National Cervical Pathology Training Service

Registration bodies

New Zealand Medical Laboratory Science Board

Medical Council of New Zealand

Professional bodies

The Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand (formerly known as the Medical Laboratory Science Board)

Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia

Accreditation bodies

International Accreditation New Zealand

Training and professional development providers

New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science

Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia

National Cervical Pathology Training Services

University of Otago

Massey University

University of Auckland

Auckland University of Technology

Laboratory standards, accreditation and monitoring

Cytology and histology laboratories are independently accredited and operate under NCSP Policies and Standards.

NCSP Policies and Standards

The NCSP Policies and Standards - Section 5: Providing a Laboratory Service documents the agreed policies, guidelines and standards of practice for providers of NCSP laboratory services.

The policies and standards cover the provision of gynaecological cytology, histology and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing services for the NCSP, including:

  • specimen preparation and processing
  • screening and reporting of cervical smears
  • reporting of cervical smears and histology cervical biopsies
  • minimum and maximum cervical smear volumes for laboratories and individual practitioners
  • internal quality control and external quality assurance
  • staff qualifications, experience, educational activities and ongoing competencies.


New Zealand cervical cytology and histology medical laboratories are accredited with International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ). Each laboratory has a surveillance visit and a full accreditation assessment every three to four years. Accreditation is ISO15189 in conjunction with the standards in Section Five: Providing a Laboratory Service, of the NCSP Policies and Standards.

Laboratory reporting

Cytology laboratories are required to submit a Laboratory reporting template to the NCSP.

In addition, all cytology and most histology results are now being sent via HL7 messaging electronically to the NCSP-Register.

Cytology Individual External Quality Assurance Programme

The cytology Individual External Quality Assurance Programme (IEQAP) is an important part of the NCSP quality assurance framework. The IEQAP is run by the Royal College of Pathologists Australasia Quality Assurance Programs (RCPAQAP) on behalf of the NCSP. All cytoscreeners and cytopathologists participate in the programme.

The policy and process documentation for operation of the IEQAP is available for download on this page.

Page last updated: 06 July 2015