National Cervical Screening Programme Sector Update - April 2022

Monday, May 2, 2022 - 13:20

Kia ora koutou

Thank you for all you are doing to help support wāhine/whanau to access cervical screening around the country, especially amidst the pandemic. We know that COVID-19 continues having a major impact across cancer screening services, and cervical screening is uniquely impacted.

This update provides information on initial approaches to support screening access as part of COVID-19 recovery planning, the implementation of HPV Primary Screening and details on the NCSP Parliamentary Review.

As outlined in our last update, our focus is on moving towards a more equitable screening programme. We are asking all screening providers, where possible, to please use any available opportunities to book appointments for patients with a higher clinical risk, preferencing Māori and Pacific, in line with the NCSP prioritisation guidance.

With COVID-19 having a major impact across cervical screening services, particularly for Māori and Pacific communities, our collective focus needs to be on ensuring we are actively reaching out to those who are most at risk of developing cervical cancer. This includes wāhine/whanau on annual screens or who have never been screened.

As you are working to reach people, remember to share with us and other providers of cervical screening, your highlights, innovations, screening clinic dates, venues (flyers) and anything else you are doing to reach people so others may learn from your ideas and reach out to adapt your ideas to reach their communities or vice-versa. The NCSP are looking at ways we can also support this sharing.


What’s happening in the NCSP

Cervical Screening Media Campaigns

The Ministry is currently developing two social marketing campaigns in partnership with Māori and Pacific Campaign Advisory Groups to promote a safe return to cervical screening. These have been designed with Māori and Pacific creative agencies and separated out into a Māori and Pacific campaign.

They are expected to run once Aotearoa is through the peak of Omicron, with the Māori campaign first to roll out, followed by the Pacific-focused campaign later in the year. This work builds upon the previous campaigns in 2020 and 2021. The NCSP and the Campaign Advisory Groups will look to share these videos with the sector before they go live for the public.

COVID-19 Recovery Planning

The NCSP are reviewing the situation regularly, monitoring the impact and initiating planning for the subsequent recovery. We know that COVID-19 continues having a major impact across cervical screening services and continues to have significant impact, in particular, on access to cervical screening for wāhine Māori and Pacific peoples

The overall decrease in screening coverage during the pandemic is consistent with most countries who continue to face substantial difficulties catching up on significant screening backlogs. As of 31 December 2021, approximately 34,000 cervical screens are needed to reach pre-pandemic coverage levels. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on access to cervical screening for wāhine Māori and Pacific peoples. Therefore, these groups are more at risk and will require additional support to return to cervical screening.

While we know the response is ongoing, the National Screening Unit is focusing attention on approaches that will support recovery. We are progressing work on sharing data at a DHB level to assist recovery planning and will be working with providers to identify opportunities to support recovery. The NCSP is assessing opportunities to re-prioritise funding from within the programme to support recovery and acknowledge this planning will need to be conducted in phases over time within the capacity of the already-stretched sector.

NCSP Parliamentary Review Committee

The three-yearly NCSP Parliamentary Review is taking place in the first half of 2022. The committee will be reaching out to the sector to arrange interviews with providers and stakeholders to inform their review.

These interviews will take place from mid-May until mid-June 2022. Individual responses will not be shared with the National Screening Unit or the Unit's National Cervical Screening Programme team.

Please refer to the following link for updates on the 2021 Parliamentary Review

What’s happening with the HPV Primary Screening Project

The Project team is working hard to bring together the planned approach and preparing for commencing the detailed planning that will support all aspects of changes. The initial work has been informed by workshops undertaken earlier this year and further supported by knowledge provided in specific areas by technical experts.

Further detailed planning will be undertaken over the next few months to inform the build of the IT solutions and the processes for service delivery that will underpin the transition to HPV Primary Screening.

We are looking to get Government approval in July 2022 for the second phase of funding, after which we will move into the Implementation Phase. A lot of effort will go into the design and build of the new register, to ensure that it supports the introduction of the HPV Primary Screening Test. The Project team will clarify these requirements and implement solutions, working with the sector on validating them.

July 2023 remains the target date for the switch to HPV Primary Screening.

Sector Engagement

Several hui are planned for different sector groups throughout May as we start the detailed planning across the programme change.

The Project team is looking forward to attending these hui and to gaining a wider understanding of the impact of the changes and further knowledge from sector experts to ensure a clinically-safe transition for wāhine/whanau to the new screening pathway.

In the next few months, the NCSP plans to engage the sector to gather requirements to support the development of public-facing resources. Resource requirements need to draw on significant expertise over the coming months to ensure they resonate and work for the communities they hope to inform and engage. This work will be supported and endorsed by the Māori and Pacific Campaign and Resources Advisory Groups.

We will be looking to use multiple channels for engagement, including emails and the NSU health professionals’ website. Look out for further information on website updates.

Whakarongorau Input

Team members from the National Coordination Centre (better known to the sector as regional call centre/coordination/Whakarongorau) are now included in the Project team, as well as holding membership roles in several of the Project Working Groups. We’d like to extend our thanks to the Whakarongorau team for their support and commitment to the Project, in helping to confirm future requirements, develop new business processes, test concepts, and identify resource requirements.

Colposcopy Update

A hui is planned with the Colposcopy Working Group in June. Group members have given feedback on new Clinical Guidelines and we will share progress with them at the hui. Updates to Solutions Plus will also be discussed at that time. We will be approaching DHBs and colposcopy units to share information about the impact of colposcopy referrals to support planning for capacity over the next three years 

Section 6 Policies and Procedures have been sent out for review.

Laboratory Update

The request for proposals (RFP) for laboratory work required under HPV Primary Screening has now closed and the bids are being evaluated. An announcement will be made in June 2022.

Register Update

Development is underway on the detailed technical requirements for the new register. To do this, we are getting a clear understanding of how people interact with the current register, and then will analyse what will potentially change once the new register is implemented.   

This includes understanding the changes to existing workflows with the introduction of HPV Primary Screening and assessing opportunities for improvements.

Our focus is on ensuring the design of the new register effectively supports the new clinical pathway, enables health providers to have direct look-up access to screening histories to support wāhine/whanau on their screening journey and enables improved reporting and monitoring, and a new notification and recall capability.

We are also focusing on the protection of people’s cervical screening data, including forming a close partnership with the National Kaitiaki Group who have guardianship over the use of cervical screening data for Māori wāhine.

Key Messaging

We are aware that you are being asked many questions about HPV Primary Screening. We will be engaging with you and communicating more in the coming weeks. In the meantime some key information to give wāhine/whanau is provided on the website Frequently asked questions | National Screening Unit (

Noho ora mai

NCSP team

Page last updated: 30 April 2022