Celebrating 40-years since the first NATA/RCPA pathology accreditation 

Industry News July 8, 2024
Celebrating 40-years since the first NATA/RCPA pathology accreditation 
NATA team

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) and NATA proudly celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first pathology laboratory accreditation in Australia – marking a significant milestone in the joint commitment to excellence in pathology testing.  

In 1982, NATA and the RCPA formed a partnership that has since transformed pathology standards across the nation. In 1984, the first pathology laboratory in Australia was accredited under this joint program. Since then, the NATA/RCPA Laboratory Accreditation Program has been a cornerstone of ensuring accurate, reliable, and trustworthy pathology testing, crucial for patient care and public health. 

Andrew Griffin, Sector Manager for Legal and Clinical Services at NATA noted: 

“The importance of the NATA/RCPA program cannot be overstated and its success extends across all pathology disciplines, ensuring the highest standards in anatomical pathology, genetic pathology, microbiology, and much more.” 

Today, over 700 laboratories are accredited under the NATA/RCPA Laboratory Accreditation Program, with a balanced representation of public and private sectors. 

Dr. Lawrie Bott, Chief Medical Officer of Sonic Healthcare and former President of the RCPA, noted: 

 “The 40th anniversary of the first NATA/RCPA accreditation is an important milestone. One of the first accreditation programs of its type in the world, it has achieved the key goal of its founders to raise laboratory standards for all laboratories, and to create patient safety.” 

Pathology is moving towards a more digital, data-driven, and integrated approach, driven by advancements in digital pathology, telepathology, AI, and precision medicine. Digital pathology and telepathology enable remote diagnostics and better accessibility to pathology expertise. AI aids in pattern recognition, diagnosis, and predictive analytics, enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of pathology. Precision medicine leverages molecular diagnostics for personalised treatment insights.  

Additionally, point-of-care testing (POCT) is growing due to workforce pressures and technological advances. These developments promise improved diagnostic accuracy, personalized treatments, and better patient outcomes, preparing NATA/RCPA to meet future healthcare needs. 

Over 70 per cent of all health care decisions affecting diagnosis or treatment involve a pathology investigation and pathology is used to diagnose 100 per cent of cancers.

Most Australians will have benefited from of the NATA/RCPA Laboratory Accreditation Program over the past four decades and will continue to do so well into the future. 

Program timeline at a glance: 

  • 1982: The NATA/RCPA Laboratory Accreditation Program program introduced to standardise the testing process to ensure results being produced could be relied on.  
  • 1984:  The first laboratory is accredited under the new program 
  • 1986: The Australian Government enshrines the accreditation program’s importance with the Health Insurance Act, mandating that any laboratory wishing to claim MBS rebates has to be accredited.  
  • 1991: Creation of the National Cervical Screening Program by Commonwealth Department of Health with NATA/RCPA accreditation supporting accurate and reliable testing. It’s led to Australia now being on track to be the first country globally to eliminate cervical cancer. 
  • 2003: The International Standards Organisation published ISO 15189 for medical laboratories, introducing international standards for quality and competence that specifies the quality management system requirements particular to medical laboratories.  
  • 2016: First Australian pathology laboratory accredited for Human genomics WGS 
  • 2019: First Australian pathology laboratory accredited for Molecular biology WGS studies 
  • 2022: A new version of the ISO 15189 Standard published with an increased focus on risk management and patient safety.