Proficiency Testing Providers
Proficiency testing exercises help laboratories to improve service quality by testing key areas of their technical competence, such as human resources, equipment and working methods.
They provide an independent assessment of the laboratory data and compare it to reference values or the performance of similar laboratories. This confirms to the Management that the technical aspects of its services are satisfactory or alerts them as to the need to investigate potential problems in the laboratory.
Through their participation, laboratories can also test performance in new tests or measurements or those carried out only rarely and compare the results using different methods (or different concentration levels, etc.), helping them to select the most appropriate method for their characteristics and the needs of their clients.
The tool has great potential for laboratories, since it allows them to:
- Provide results for accuracy studies and the calculation of the necessary uncertainty to perform the relevant validation of methods.
- Verify the quality of the test methods used.
- Detect bias that may not be detected by intralaboratory quality control schemes.
- Identify analytical methods with less bias in complex matrices and find out the biases associated with the different techniques.
- Monitor the evolution of test methods over time.
- Compare their "technical quality" with other laboratories.
- Identify equipment operating errors.
- Supervise the training, qualification and technical competence of their staff.
The stakeholders and beneficiaries of participation in proficiency testing schemes are clearly the laboratories. However, so too are the direct clients and, on many occasions, the "indirect” clients, the users of the product tested or the regulatory entities.
Accreditation of proficiency testing providers
For a proficiency testing exercise to contribute its full control and improvement potential, it is essential that the entire management process, from preparation and analysis of the sample (uniformity and stability), sending it to participants and processing the data interpretation, be carried out with a high level of technical competence.
Without these assurances, participation can, at best, be a waste of time and money for the laboratory. Sometimes, it can even be counterproductive because it provides information that does not meet the guarantees of reliability to allow decision-making.
It is in this context that the first accreditation schemes appear for Providers of Proficiency Testing Schemes, as a tool for their selection based on criteria of quality and technical competence.
A considerable number of providers, both in Europe and globally, are now accredited. The use of accredited providers has other advantages, namely the laboratories that use them do not need to develop a methodology or invest resources in rating providers, since they can rely on the assessment of the accreditation bodies. And, of course, the expert assessment helps increase the quality of existing schemes and, hence, confidence in the results.
The "Accredited Bodies" section contains details of all control and notified bodies accredited by ENAC for various activities.
All ENAC documentation relative to accreditation criteria and procedures for proficiency testing providers schemes is available in the DOCUMENTS section.