Cytopathology is a branch of pathology that studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level. The most common use of cytopathology is the smear test, used to detect precursors of cervical cancer that can be treated easily.

The cytology department at St Helier Hospital, acting on behalf of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, screens liquid-based cytology samples for GPs, family planning clinics (FPCs) and hospitals within the Sutton and Merton area, Epsom Hospital and NHS Surrey. HPV tests will be carried out on appropriate samples falling within NHSCSP guidelines. Private HPV tests can also be arranged. In the event of an HPV test being performed on a LBC cervical smear, the test will be sent to Northwick Park (part of the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust) for processing. The cellular pathology service at Northwick Park is provided in collaboration with The Doctors Laboratory Ltd.

The laboratory also provides a full non-gynaecological diagnostic service, which includes on- and off-site fine needle aspiration service, as well as attendance at bronchoscopy clinics, X-ray and CT scanning to provide diagnostic guidance and technical help to the consultants.

Specimen requirements

Please ensure the specimen label and request form are completed in full.

The minimum requirements for the completion of the sample pot label are:

  1. First name
  2. Surname
  3. DOB
  4. NHS number/Hospital number

The minimum requirements for the sample form are:

  1. First name, surname, sex, DOB, NHS number / Hospital number
  2. Name of sender, ward / department / GP address
  3. Nature and site of specimen
  4. Clinical details including previous history
  5. Sample taker name or smear taker code
Acceptance and rejection criteria

Specimens received without the information detailed above will be rejected.

Cervical smear samples will only be accepted in a Thin Prep container.

Non-gynae samples such as pleural fluids, ascitic fluids, peritoneal fluids, pericardial fluids, synovial (joint) fluids, CSFs, fine needle aspirates, cyst fluids and urines should be in plain white universals.

Bronchial washings, bronchoalveolar lavages and sputum samples should be in 50 ml bronchoscopy traps.

Larger volumes should be decanted into universal containers.

Urine samples in boric acid will be rejected.

Samples in formaldehyde will be rejected.

For cervical smear samples see NHSCSP Sample Handling Guidelines.

For more information, please visit

Location and opening hours

Ground floor, D block, St Helier Hospital
Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm

Contact details

For further advice please call 020 8296 2495 or email:

Turnaround times

Gynaecological: <14 days

Non-gynaecological: 80% of cases within 7 working days, 90% of all cases within 10 working days (In accordance with RCPath guidelines).

NB. Please note that the histology department is not funded for weekend work.

Key staff

Janice Callaghan, Lead Biomedical Scientist

Dr Tina Matthews, Lead Consultant


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