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Smear test advice and guidance

To avoid common smear errors, it is important for all GPs to be aware of the guidance and advice available. Below are common mistakes that can be easily avoided and help ensure the best care for all patients.

Sample Handling Errors

1. Samples are still being taken "out of programme". They are being repeated too early or taken on a  woman who is either too young or too old.

Please don't rely on QOF pop -ups on your computer, you need to check the woman's cytology history via Open Exeter (speak to your manager if you don't have an account).

Read the sample handling interim guidelines if you are unclear when to NOT take a smear (attached)

 2.  Samples are still not reaching the lab soon enough. They are expected to arrive within 4 days. Many are taking 6-8 days which is not acceptable and there should be no reason for this.

Please review your procedures with all members of staff to ensure your samples reach the lab on time.

3. Vials are still not being labelled. T Quest labels have all the identifiers needed. If for some reason you cannot use T Quest for a sample then you must add 3 patient identifiers on form and label

  • NHS number
  • Full name
  •  DOB

 4. If a smear is inadequate then this must not be repeated before a 3 calendar month interval. It will be rejected if done too early

5. HIV +ve women need annual smears

6. Please ensure your printer alignment is correct so all the patient details are printed accurately on the T Quest label

7. Audits of individual practice will be carried out via the CSTD to identify individual sample takers errors.

For more advice please read NHS England's Primary Care Support England's bulletin and NHS England London region sampling guidelines