Proficiency Testing in the COVID-19 pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, an increasing number of diagnostic methods are available in the global fight against COVID-19. It is therefore essential that testing laboratories ensure their application of measurement procedures, and subsequent results are reliable and accurate, using external quality assurance tools including proficiency testing (PT). Participating in PT provides laboratories with confidence in their measurement procedures, offering a way to monitor their performance and ensure that their measurement results are accurate and reliable.
We offer PT schemes that provide three types of test materials in support of laboratories undertaking testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- For the detection of SARS-CoV-2 by nucleic acid amplification (PCR-based) testing;
- For the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies by serological testing;
- For the detection of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces by nucleic acid amplification (PCR-based) testing.
All our PT test materials in these PT schemes are non-infectious.
How does Proficiency testing work?
Proficiency testing (PT), often known as External Quality Assessment (EQA) in the clinical sector, allows laboratories to assess their measurement processes with test materials that we send them. This enables laboratories to determine the reliability and accuracy of their measurement procedures. PT is a central component of a robust quality system, enabling laboratories to benchmark performance and identify, where appropriate, areas for further improvement.
Laboratories who subscribe to one of our PT schemes will receive test materials from LGC. The laboratories are then required to analyse the test materials using their normal measurement procedures, as they would do with their routine test samples. The laboratory enters their measurement results onto our bespoke PT software, PORTAL. The submitted results are analysed and reports produced that detail how well a laboratory has performed.
Finally, the laboratory can download these reports containing their performance assessment which indicate whether the result submitted is within an acceptable range. This provides the laboratory with information to make the relevant corrective improvements, where necessary, thus ensuring that their measurement procedures produce results that are accurate, reliable and fit for purpose.
Our new PT programme for SARS-CoV-2 forms an integral part of external quality systems for clinical laboratories worldwide.