The difficulty with audit of high grade cervical cytology in the absence of a national screening programme.

Audit is an essential requirement of a cervical screening programme to ensure that laboratories are practising to agreed standards, and to ensure high quality patient care. The aim of this study was to assess the ability to audit high-grade cytology smear reports in a large cervical cytology laboratory in Ireland, where a nationally organised screening programme does not exist. Seven hundred and five questionnaires were forwarded to smear takers requesting follow-up data regarding high grade smear results from 2003. Seventy-four percent of the questionnaires were returned containing insufficient data, with a "don't know result" rate of >50%. This attempt at detailed audit took place 5 years ago. Annual internal audit continues to the best of the laboratory's ability but the situation, in terms of a centralised database in the context of a national screening programme, remains unchanged. A National Cervical Cytology Screening Programme is essential to centralise patient data, to allow for improved patient care, patient follow-up and audit.