The National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council (NPAAC) advises the Commonwealth, state and territory health ministers on matters relating to the accreditation of pathology laboratories. NPAAC plays a key role in ensuring the quality of Australian pathology services and is responsible for the development and maintenance of standards and guidelines for pathology practices. NPAAC is comprised of representatives from all states and territories, nominees from peak professional bodies and the Department of Health.
Legislative basis for pathology accreditation and linkage to the Medicare Benefits Schedule
NPAAC is a ministerially-appointed Council that was originally established in 1979 by an Order made by the Governor-General (known as an Order in Council), which sets out NPAAC’s role, structure and function. The authority to create such orders is outlined in subsection 9(1) of the National Health Act 1953. The Order in Council was updated in 2003.
In 1986, the Commonwealth introduced a compulsory accreditation system in relation to Medicare benefits for pathology. In order to be accredited, a pathology laboratory must meet specified quality standards.
The Health Insurance (Accredited Pathology Laboratories – Approval) Principles 2002 set out the specifics of pathology accreditation and its requirements. The Principles include a Schedule that lists accreditation materials (or the standards) that relate to the actual process. The accreditation material is developed and maintained by NPAAC.
Medicare benefits are only payable for pathology services if:
- approved services are performed in a laboratory within an appropriate Accredited Pathology Laboratory (APL) category
- the service is rendered by or on behalf of an Approved Pathology Practitioner (APP)
- the proprietor of the laboratory is an Approved Pathology Authority (APA)
The Health Insurance Act 1973
includes a provision for the Federal Minister to determine the principles for accreditation of a pathology laboratory (s23DNA).
Department of Human Services (formerly Medicare Australia) manages the administration of the pathology laboratory accreditation. This includes tracking the accreditation status of laboratories and managing the arrangements with organisations that conduct accreditation checks.
If patients of a laboratory wish to claim Medicare benefits for services rendered, the laboratory must have APL status approved by Department of Human Services (formerly Medicare Australia). The views of an endorsed assessing body are considered by Medicare when granting APL status. Currently, NATA is the only endorsed assessing body for pathology accreditation.
Since 1 July 2021, administrative support functions for the pathology and diagnostic accreditation programs were transferred from the Department of Health to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (Commission).
The Commission will provide support to expert accreditation committees in the development and maintenance of accreditation standards and guidance, operational oversight of accrediting agencies, and will coordinate advice to queries related to pathology accreditation standards.
The Department will retain policy and regulatory responsibilities associated with the pathology and diagnostic imaging accreditation programs and will work collaboratively with the Commission on accreditation issues.
Information relating to the pathology accreditation standards or the National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council (NPAAC) can be found on the Commission’s pathology webpage.
The contact details for the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care are the following.
Telephone: 1800 304 056