COVID-19: Information for screening providers

What health providers need to know about screening under the COVID-19 traffic light system (COVID-19 Protection Framework). Detailed guidance for all programmes is avaliable in the download section to the right as well as individual programme frameworks. 

Antenatal and newborn screening programmes

  • Antenatal and newborn screening programmes are considered high priority and will continue to operate under the traffic light system, but with some changes as appropriate to ensure health staff, families and babies are kept safe.

  • More detailed guidance about what happens at green, orange and red is available below.

Breast screening

  • Breast screening is an essential service.

  • Breast screening will continue under the COVID-19 traffic light system, but capacity may be impacted at red from region to region. This can result in postponed appointments.

  • More detailed information about the programme at green, orange and red is available to the right in the downloads section.

Cervical screening

  • Cervical screening is an essential service.

  • Cervical screening will continue under the COVID-19 traffic light system, but capacity may be impacted at orange and red from region to region. This can result in postponed appointments. At orange and red, colposcopy appointments may be delayed.

  • More detailed information about the programme at green, orange and red is available to the right in the downloads section.

Bowel screening

  • The National Bowel Screening Programme is continuing at green, orange and red, with safeguards in place for participants and staff. Participants can still expect to receive their invitation to take part in bowel screening and should return their completed screening tests as soon as possible. Tests will be processed. If the test result is negative, the participant will get a letter. If it is positive, they will be contacted by phone.

  • At orange and red, bowel screening colonoscopies for those with a positive bowel screening test result may be delayed, but this will vary by region.
    If someone is experiencing possible symptoms of bowel cancer, such as a change in their normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks or blood in their bowel motion, they are encouraged seek advice from their family doctor, who will take appropriate action. This may include referral for urgent assessment and treatment.

Updates to the health sector will come through your contacts within the National Screening Unit.

The information below under individual programmes is reviewed and updated for the public as the situation develops.

BreastScreen Aotearoa

National Bowel Screening Programme

National Cervical Screening Programme

Antenatal and newborn screening programmes (below)

Antenatal and newborn screening programmes

Antenatal care for pregnant women will continue to be provided under the traffic light system, including antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions.

All women, including those who identify as a confirmed/possible COVID-19 case should continue to receive maternity care.

Some changes to the radiology services provided to women for antenatal screening may be implemented under the traffic light system to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in community settings and protect pregnant women and health staff. We encourage women or their Lead Maternity Carer to contact radiology practices to check whether anatomy scanning services are available and any requirements they have in place for appointments. Changes implemented may include:

 

  • Women who identify as a confirmed/possible COVID-19 case: Access to first trimester anatomy scans for women who identify as a confirmed/possible COVID-19 case may be limited as some practices are not equipped to manage these cases. Some radiology facilities do have correct protective PPE measures in place for staff and are able to provide essential maternity ultrasound services.
  • Shorter scan times: Shorter scan times may be offered to allow more spacing between appointments. While essential scanning procedures will continue, social scanning, such as 3D imaging, may not be available in these shorter appointments.
  • Scans can be stopped: Providers have the right to stop a scan if they are uncomfortable with a patient’s behaviour or undeclared symptoms, such as coughing.
  • Some radiology practices may limit their opening hours or be closed: This may be due to reduced workforce capacity of if there are restrictions on non-essential health care.
  • Support person: Women may be required to arrive and be scanned alone, except if they need a translator or their appointment is deemed to be high risk, for example where there is a suspected loss of pregnancy.

Remember, second trimester maternal serum screening (MSS2) is available to complete screening from 14 weeks if the nuchal scan is unavailable locally or the scan is unable to be completed.

 

Newborn metabolic screening programme

As an essential service, newborn metabolic screening will continue to be provided for babies under the traffic light system. This includes babies where they or a family member identify as a confirmed / possible COVID-19 case.

  • Collection of samples: Providers are to follow service guidelines for collection and use standard precautions during collection, and when handling the cards (PPE such as gloves, gown). Cards can be sent in the usual manner. If collecting from a baby or environment in which COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, providers are to follow local DHB guidelines for patient management.
  • Timing of sample collection: The optimal time for collection of a blood sample for newborn metabolic screening is 48 to 72 hours. However, where necessary and to fit with the schedule of visits, the laboratory will accept blood samples collected from 24 hours.
  • Courier/mail deliveries as normal: Mail is an essential service that will operate as normal under the traffic light system. However, some disruption to services may be experienced. Note that if a Post Shop is closed, providers can call the courier company for a pickup or to drop off samples at their local maternity facility. Please advise the laboratory of any issues regarding collection or delivery of samples as soon as you become aware of an issue. If couriers are experiencing delays, please refer to the Best Practice Guidelines to support samples reaching the lab as soon as possible.
     
  • Results not received: Midwives and hospital staff are to ensure test results are being received within 10 days of a child’s birth and if not, to check that the lab has the sample. They should do this by using the courier track number and calling 0800 LABLINK to enquire about sample/result.

 

Newborn hearing screening

Newborn hearing screening is an important programme and will continue to be provided by DHBs where feasible under the traffic light system and while demand can be met. DHBs will be prioritising screening babies born in hospital prior to discharge to maximise coverage and completion rates. Babies not screened prior to discharge, babies born at home or in a birthing unit, or babies requiring a follow-up screen will need to be seen at an outpatient clinic. Priority will be given to babies who have started screening but who require a follow-up screen or older babies who have not yet started screening. The availability of outpatient appointments will vary under the traffic light system and across DHBs.

  • Contacting parents of unscreened babies: All DHBs have systems in place for identifying babies who have not been offered newborn hearing screening. Parents/guardians will be contacted by their DHB by phone or letter providing information about when they may expect an appointment and who to contact if they have any queries. Parents/guardians who have not been contacted by their DHB within two weeks of their baby’s birth, can contact their DHB screening team.
  • Communication to parents awaiting audiology appointments: Availability of diagnostic audiology appointments will vary under the traffic light system. Parents/guardians waiting on an audiology appointment for their baby should have been contacted by the audiology department either with an appointment or an update on when they may expect to receive an appointment. The parents/guardians of babies referred to audiology can contact their DHB screening team if they have any queries about their audiology appointment.
  • Attendance at outpatient appointments: It is important parents are encouraged to attend the outpatient appointment under the traffic light system Without screening or audiology testing it is difficult to detect hearing loss in babies until their speech and language development becomes delayed. Parents or guardians can discuss with the screening team options for supporting their attendance at an outpatient screening or audiology appointment if they think they may have difficulties attending.
  • Advice for parents who are waiting for their diagnostic audiology appointment: The Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book includes suggestions for interacting with babies that can promote good listening and communication development in babies. Providers can advise parents to refer to this section while they await their audiology appointment.

All programme changes listed above will be reviewed regularly.

In the meantime, the NSU will publish advice for participants on the 'Time to Screen' website www.timetoscreen.nz

If you have any questions about the changes outlined above please email [email protected]

 

Page last updated: 03 December 2021