WHO/Europe identifies 7 mentors to help eastern and south-eastern European countries improve the quality of their laboratories

WHO

Well-functioning, sustainable laboratory services, operating according to international principles of quality and safety, are essential for strong health systems and crucial for improving public health.

A key method for effective and efficient strengthening of medical laboratories is the implementation of a quality management system (QMS) based on the international quality standard ISO 15189:2012. In 2014, WHO launched a web-based tool that guides laboratories with the practical implementation of the QMS: the Laboratory Quality Stepwise Implementation (LQSI) tool.

Even though the use of the LQSI tool minimizes the need for external assistance in the implementation process, regular mentoring remains crucial. During these visits, mentors can:

  • answer questions
  • give practical recommendations
  • help to develop action plans to overcome obstacles
  • perform external audits
  • provide trainings.

In June 2015, WHO/Europe disseminated a call to establish a pool of regional mentors in eastern or south-eastern Europe to assist laboratories implementing a QMS after the LQSI training. 10 potential mentors were selected for a training course in Copenhagen, Denmark in September 2015, during which the LQSI tool was briefly introduced, WHO expectations were presented, and mentoring methods and skills were discussed and evaluated.

As a result of this exercise, 7 mentors have been selected who are in the process of being partnered with laboratories that have undertaken LQSI training and are keen to move towards quality improvement and accreditation.

Professor Ian Sharp, who has over 20 years of experience with implementing and managing quality managements systems and recently retired as head of quality for all of the specialist and reference laboratories in the Microbiology Services Division of Public Health England, said "I am very excited about having the opportunity to share my experience with laboratories in the WHO European Region. I have been impressed by the training I have received and by the detailed planning behind the mentoring programme. I am really looking forward to working with other mentors and hopefully making a valuable contribution."

The first mentor visits will take place in late 2015 and early 2016.