Diagnostic cytology is a specialist discipline that provides the examination of samples taken by non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures.

This is done by examining cells from fluids, brushings or fine needle aspirates (FNAs) to give a diagnosis of disease. 

9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays and excluding weekends).  

All samples should reach the laboratory as soon as possible and preferably early in the working day to avoid deterioration of cells. Samples should be received in the department by 4.00pm. 

If a delay in transportation is anticipated or samples have been taken out of hours then they should be kept refrigerated at 4°C.  

There is no out-of-hours cytology service. 

Service management

Other contact information

Medical Staff 

Diagnostic Cytology Lead Pathologist:  

Dr Sabine Pomplun 

Consultant Histo/Cytopathologist 

Email: sabine.pomplun@nhs.net 

TEL: 020 3456 8419 


Divisional Clinical Director 

Dr Mary Falzon  

Consultant Histo/Cytopathologist 

Email: mfalzon@nhs.net 

TEL: 020 3456 8416 


Dr Sepideh Amin 

Consultant Histo/Cytopathologist 

Email: sepidehamin@nhs.net 

TEL: 020 3456 8417 


Dr Elaine Borg 

Consultant Histo/Cytopathologist 

Email: elaine.borg@nhs.net 

TEL: 020 3456 8418 


Dr Reena Khiroya 

Consultant Histo/Cytopathologist 

Email: reena.khiroya@nhs.net 

TEL: 020 3456 8415 


Laboratory contact details 

Address: Diagnostic Cytopathology 

Department of Cellular Pathology 2nd Floor (South) 

60 Whitfield Street 

London W1T 4EU 

Email: Diagnostic.Cytology@hslpathology.com 

Referral address

Office manager 

Camelia Bouzid

Email: camelia.bouzid1@nhs.net  


Cellular Pathology Admin team 2nd Floor (North) 

60 Whitfield Street London W1T 4EU 


All cytology request forms, sample containers, glass slides and slide boxes must be labelled and completed as per the following  

Acceptance criteria  

Cytology request forms, sample containers/slides/slide mailer boxes must have a minimum of 3 key patient identifiers, and these patient identifiers must include: 

  • Full name (first name and surname)  
  • A unique patient identification number, hospital, NHS or 
  • Date of birth  


Rejection criteria  

Samples will be rejected if: 

  • The request form, sample container or slide has less than 3 of the key patient identifiers 
  • The patient data on the form and sample container do not match.  

Cytology request forms and samples containers/slides/slide boxes that do not meet these standards will need verifying by a senior clinician. And in such cases the requesting clinician will be asked to visit the diagnostic cytology department to verify the request form and specimen or complete a specimen deficiency form, accepting responsibility for any clinical decisions that are made based on the results of the sample submitted.

Sample pot lids and slide boxes must be secured properly and checked to ensure no leakage or that slides cannot fall out.  

The sample container/s/slide boxes must be placed in a clear plastic transport bag, and sealed properly, with the accompanying request placed in the side pocket.

Forms should not be stapled to the bag or placed with the samples.

Sample type Sample volume Lab requirement
Anal brushings  Brush rinsed in Hologic ThinPrep vial. 
  • Brush tip must not be placed in vial 
  • Ensure ThinPrep vial is in date and stored between 15-30°C 
Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)  Place in a plain sterile container 
  • Cells deteriorate rapidly so the specimen should be brought to the lab immediately 
  • Where a cell differential count is required sample must be submitted within a couple of hours of sample being taken. 
Cerebrospinal fluids (CSF)  2ml sample ideal (less OK) 
  • Cells deteriorate rapidly so the specimen should be brought to the lab immediately
  • Inform lab staff that a CSF sample is being sent. 
  • These samples must be received in the lab before 4.00pm (Monday to Friday except bank holidays) to ensure they are dealt with that day.  
  • Ensure a separate sample has been submitted to clinical chemistry and microbiology as well, if appropriate 
  • CSF suspected of containing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) must not be sent to the lab. 
Cyst Fluid  25ml (max) of fluid. Place in a plain sterile container.   
Endoscopic Brushings (eg. Bronchial)  Placed in 15ml CytoLyt solution 
  • Please call lab for universal containers containing CytoLyt solution. 
Endoscopic Washings (eg. Bronchial)  Place in a plain sterile containers.   
FNA slides & Needle Rinses 
  • Fixed slides must be fixed in IMS or spray fixed. 
  • Needle rinses to be placed in a plain sterile container/ Roswell Park Memorial Institute Medium (RPMI) or CytoLyt solution.  
  • Ask laboratory if unsure 
  • Ensure method of fixation is clearly stated on slide/s. 
  • Number of slides submitted must be written on request form. 
  • Slides must be transported in a slide mailer. 
Nipple Discharge   
  • Ensure method of fixation is clearly written on slide/s. 
Serous Fluid (e.g. Pleural, Ascitic, Abdominal, Peritoneal, pericardial) 60ml (min)recommended in a plain sterile container
  • If patients have been supine for any length of time please get the patient to sit up and move a little, so that any cells that have settled are resuspended. 
Sputum  Place in a plain sterile container. 
  • This sample is of limited or no clinical value, and should rarely be received.  
  • Should only be taken where patients are unfit for Bronchoscopy. 
  • For best results obtain sputum following chest physiotherapy, with an early morning sample before the patient has eaten or brushed their teeth.  
  • Multiple samples (x3) may be needed, but they should be taken on 3 separate days.  
  • The whole of the expectorated sample should be submitted 
Synovial Fluid  5ml min   

20ml (max) of fluid in a plain sterile container 

Second void of the day to be collected. 

  • Send to lab ASAP, if delay anticipated refrigerate and store at 4oC or 
  • A preservative, such as Hologic PreservCyt solution, may be added to the sample in a 2:1 ratio (2 parts urine to 1 part fixative) and this must be recorded on the sample pot with a black dot using a marker pen or written on the request form.  
  • The first sample voided in the morning is unsuitable for analysis! 
  • RED TOPPED Borate Universals are NOT Suitable for Cytology. The lab will not accept these samples. 

Diagnostic cytology samples must not be placed in formalin, 10% Formal saline or Neutral Buffered Formalin. 

Cytology samples not being delivered and received by the lab ASAP  

  • These specimens (unless they have been placed in preservative as outlined above) do not contain any preservatives/fixatives that prevent the cells from deteriorating or prevents microbes from growing. The longer a specimen takes to reach the lab there is an increased chance that the cells will deteriorate and that the sample may become unsuitable for diagnosis.  
  • CSF cells deteriorate rapidly, so a delay may mean that a diagnosis may not be possible.  

Delayed samples not being refrigerated (4°C)  

  • These specimens (unless they have been placed in preservative) do not contain any preservatives/fixatives that prevent the cells from deteriorating or prevents microbes from growing. Placing them in a fridge will help to slow down cell deterioration and microbial growth, especially important with urine samples. 

 Patient not being prepared properly and therefore not obtaining the best sample possible 

  • If serous fluid is being sampled and the patient has been supine for a long time it is important to get them to sit up and move a little to re-suspend the cells that have settled.  
  • Sputum samples should be taken first thing in the morning before patient has eaten or brushed their teeth. 
  • Sputum samples need a very deep cough and it is recommended that this is obtained by a physiotherapist. If this is not done the sample may just be saliva.  
  • Early morning urine should be avoided because the cells will appear degenerate and interpretation will be difficult.  

FNA technique inadequate  

  • Sample does not contain the cells needed to make a diagnosis and may be heavily blood stained.  

FNA smears inadequate  

  • If sample is too thick the viewing of cells down the microscope is difficult, only a small drop of sample needed  
  • If sample is all over the slide, cells at the sides of the slide may be lost or uninterpretable 
  • Cells squashed/smashed when slide pressure applied was too great. 

FNA smear incorrectly fixed 

  • Slow drying causes air drying artefact where the cells appear bigger and lack definition. 
  • If the slide is incorrectly labelled wet or dry, the wrong stain may be applied in the lab making interpretation difficult. 

FNA smear on back of slide  

  • If the smear is placed on the back of the slide and not the front, cells or even the whole sample might be removed when being handled by lab staff. 

We aim to report on diagnostic cytology specimens within 48 hours of receipt into the laboratory. 

Urgent samples 

In some circumstances a report may be required urgently. In these cases the request form must be marked “URGENT” and with a contact name and telephone/bleep number.

In exceptional circumstances, for some cases, it is possible to obtain results on the same day as sampling. Such requests must be discussed beforehand with one of the consultant histopathologists.