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 What is Public Pathology?

Public pathology is defined by the mix of services that it provides to requesting doctors and their patients, and the hospitals, health services and communities in which they operate - and not just in terms of ownership and values.  

Public pathology represents a core part of Australia’s public hospital and health care services.    

For patients of public hospitals

  • They provide the majority of pathology (diagnostic and consultative) services to patients of Australia’s network of public hospitals – to admitted and non admitted patients.  Public pathology deals with the management of more complex medical conditions reflecting the casemix and emergency and intensive care needs of public hospitals, and delivers 24 hour services. 
  • Many public sector pathologists are practising clinicians providing direct clinical care to cancer patients, people with haemophilia and other blood disorders, people with immune system problems and infectious diseases, and people with metabolic disease such as diabetes and obesity.

For community and private hospital patients

  • They provide pathology services in a number of private hospitals on a contracted basis, and operate specimen collection services for community based doctors and their patients and other health services across urban, rural nad remote parts of Australia.

Health protection

  • They work closely with health protection agencies in the timely and effective laboratory based detection, surveillance and control of outbreaks of communicable diseases in Australia, in dealing with new emerging infectious diseases, and in national disaster management.

Specialised reference laboratory services

  • They are the home of many of Australia’s specialist reference laboratory services which cater for rarely performed tests or tests that require specialist equipment and expertise and are best organised and delivered through a national network of specialist laboratories. 

Teaching and training

  • As part of Australia’s teaching hospitals, NCOPP members play an important role in teaching undergraduate medical students and in training current and future cohorts of pathologists, other clinicians and medical scientists.


  • They conduct leading edge research into new and existing diseases, diagnostic tests and treatments.

Clinical governance and leadership

  • Public pathology is integrated into the clinical services and governance arrangements (e.g. infection control, drug policy, occupational and environmental health) that are essential to the safe and effective operation of Australia’s acute care hospitals.