Inaccurate malaria results can lead to patient mismanagement, misperceptions about malaria resistance patterns and public health misinformation. All laboratories need to be able to demonstrate that their results are accurate. Establishing and maintaining a system for monitoring test accuracy is a complex, expensive and technically demanding process, which very few poor countries have been able to implement. This study described the process and assessed the feasibility of establishing a nation-wide system for improving the accuracy of malaria-related tests in peripheral laboratories in Ghana. A baseline survey of all 693 laboratory staff in 205 sub-regional government and mission health laboratories in Ghana was conducted by a national network of laboratory supervisors. Survey results guided a training programme to improve test accuracy. Outcomes included changes in the quality of laboratory tests and the system was considered to be feasible if >50% of laboratory staff in each region received training and if test accuracy could be documented. 74% (mean) of the 693 laboratory staff were assistants with no professional qualifications. There were marked differences between regions in the availability of essential resources for malaria diagnosis (e.g. microscopes). 93% of laboratory staff received training; in six months there were increases of 11% and 7% respectively in the number of laboratories producing haemoglobin and malaria microscopy results of acceptable quality. Conclusions: It is possible to establish a system for improving and monitoring test accuracy in peripheral laboratories on a country-wide basis in a developing country using a model that could be adapted for use in other countries and for other components of health care provision.
Malaria Journal 3:38 (5 pp)