The quality of a cervical cytology laboratory depends on adequate handling and staining of the samples, screening and interpretation of the slides and reporting of the results. These guidelines give an overview of procedures recommended in Europe to manage the balance between best patient care possible, laboratory quality assurance and cost effectiveness and will be published as a chapter 4 in the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Cervical Cancer Screening. The laboratory guidelines include protocols for personnel and organisation, material requirements, handling and analysing cervical samples, recording of results, quality management and communication. The section on quality management is comprehensive and includes protocols for all aspects of internal and external quality assurance. The guidelines are extensively referenced and as far as possible the recommendations are evidence-based.