Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology

Education & Training

Training, Education & Qualification

Training, education and qualification are without doubt the backbone of any profession and to this extent Anatomical Pathology Technology is no different. The Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology is firmly committed to improving standards and accepts that training and education is an essential path on the route to achieving this ultimate goal. 

The current Certificate and Diploma qualifications are provided by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) who have in recent years made some changes to the standard and level of training and qualification for Anatomical Pathology Technologists (APTs). In today’s governance and regulated working environment there is a real need to ensure that the APT work force is competent, fit for purpose and capable of meeting the challenges that lie ahead. 

Entry Requirements 

There are no current formal entry requirements for those embarking on a career as an APT. There is a trend however, for prospective employers to ask for a minimum of three GCSE ‘O’ level, grades A – C in Maths, English and a science subject. There is common trend, endorsed by the AAPT, for employers to ask for five GCSE ‘O’ levels at grade A – C. Preference may be given to those persons who hold a GCSE in Human Biology as this subject is of particular relevance. 

In recent years it is noted that it is not uncommon for people with higher-level qualifications to apply for jobs as Trainee APTs and from personal experience it is not unusual to receive applications from people who hold a degree.   

The AAPT was founded in 2003. It has taken time and care in establishing itself and is now recognised as the professions voice. 

Current Qualifications

As already mentioned there are currently two qualifications available for APTs. Both of these qualifications are designed, administered and awarded by the RSPH and have been in operation for over 50 years.  With the length of time the qualifications have been in place it is clear that they are well embedded and have been of great value. 

Certificate 

The first qualification available to an APT is the certificate in Anatomical Pathology Technology.  There is a two-year qualification period for entry to the examination in which time the APT must complete a Practical Assessment record issued by RSPH.  Each of the tasks specified in the record book must be signed off by a pathologist and the applicant and returned to RSPH. 

It is a mandatory requirement that APTs wishing to take the certificate examination to attend an approved course (approved by RSPH) that will include a minimum of 40 hours tuition. Details of the formal training requirements are produced in the course syllabus once again produced by RSPH.  This mandatory training is undertaken either on a day release basis usually over a twenty-week period or by attending a residential course generally of two weeks duration. 

Formal written examination is undertaken in April of each year. The pass mark for the certificate examination is 50%. 

Diploma  

The Diploma is the final qualification and may be taken 12mths after success at Certificate level.  RSPH recommend a course of study via their syllabus but there is no formal requirement to attend a course. 

Once again candidates must complete a Practical Assessment record issued by RSPH.  Each of the tasks specified in the record book must be signed off by a pathologist and the applicant and returned to RSPH. 

Formal written examination is undertaken in April of each year and is followed by oral examination either on the same day or soon after. The pass mark for the Diploma examination is 60% over both elements.   

Providing Skills for the Future

There have been significant changes in the delivery of healthcare in recent years with tasks that traditionally would have been performed by doctors being devolved out to practitioners at various levels.  The best example of this is in the nursing profession with the development of a significant number of advanced and consultant practitioner roles i.e. nurse performing endoscopy. Sadley, the current level of training and qualification available to APTs is not of a high enough level to deliver services of a higher level of complexity. 

Training, education and qualification needs to provide a level playing field for all of those in the profession.  It needs to provide opportunity for the more able thus opening up the possibility of advanced practitioner roles.  We must accept that not everyone will aspire to advanced practitioner level (nor should they) but if the qualifications are set at the right level they will:

  • provide the backbone of the academic knowledge required to develop further

  • help to raise baseline standards in terms of competency and service provision

  • help to provided consistency throughout the profession. 

With this in mind the AAPT has been heavily involved with the Royal College of Pathologists in the development of new training and qualifications for APTs. This work is at an early stage and is ongoing. 

Qualifications for the future 

It is clear that APTs will be associated with significant changes in mortuary practice in the future.  Issues such as regulation, HCS career framework, and MSC must all be taken into account. Perhaps the most important factor in determining future requirements relates to both DoH and RCPath expectations in providing an APT workforce capable of meeting all service needs.  AAPT has ensured that both organisations and RSPH have been fully involved in the future development of new qualifications.

Terry Johnson

Chair, AAPT Education & Training Committee