National Cervical Screening Programme Sector Update - October 2021

Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - 16:04

COVID-19 impact

The latest COVID-19 lockdown period disrupted the provision of routine cervical screening services, but unlike the lockdown of 2020, there are different levels between different regions in the country and this situation is still evolving. Thankfully, as we have moved into levels 2 and 3, screening services have been able to continue with safeguards in place. We want to acknowledge the hard work of everyone in encouraging and supporting women to screen and return to screen.

A key takeaway from the last lockdown was improving access to screening for wāhine Māori and Pacific women disproportionately affected. Prioritising access to screening for Māori and Pacific women should remain the key focus in regional planning.

Move to primary HPV screening from July 2023

As you know, the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) is moving to primary HPV screening from July 2023.  There will be the option to self-test – with the person either taking the swab themselves at the clinic, or having it taken by a clinician.  

The change to HPV primary screening is an exciting opportunity. To achieve best possible results in terms of equity and quality we need to consider and seek feedback on many aspects of the new programme before implementation.

A safe transition to the new screening test requires changes across the programme, which will take time. As well as developing a fit for purpose IT system (NCSP Register); clinical guidelines, workforce training/education and referral pathways will be impacted.

Initial funding is being used to develop key requirements for the design of the NCSP ICT system and programme changes, and for a comprehensive communications strategy. 

Work is underway on timelines and the approach, and more detail will be provided in the next sector update. 

The current cervical screening programme approach is clinically safe and will continue to be so as the programme transitions. Please carry on encouraging all eligible participants to continue to have cervical screening through the current programme.

DHB Cervical Screening Services

The NCSP will be contacting DHBs in the near future to discuss meeting with local and regional cervical screening services.  The purpose of the meeting is to conduct a current state analysis as a first step in our process of defining requirements for local and regional services for HPV primary screening. The services of interest are programme coordination, invitation and recall, register coordination, free screening and support to screening services.

Colposcopy services will not be included in this initial work. A separate workstream will be undertaken to understand the requirements, change impacts and workforce capacity for these services.


Campaign update

A social media campaign Start to Screen has been completed, encouraging people aged 25-35 years to have cervical screening. This campaign used material from previous advertisements and utilised social media influencers to spread the message. This campaign had a particular focus on wāhine Māori and Pacific people and reached over 1 million people.

A media campaign is also planned for November, focused on awareness of screening within Māori populations, this will be followed by a separate campaign focused on Pacific communities.

Consultation on the revised HPV screening pathway

The NCSP has recently completed a public consultation on the revised HPV primary screening clinical pathway to introduce self-testing. Closing on 8 June 2021, the feedback received will inform the implementation approach and clinical pathway. A document outlining the findings will be released by the NCSP in October on the NCSP website.

Passage of legislation related to cervical screening 

The Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Bill  was passed on 23 June 2021 and amends Part 4A of the Health Act 1956 (the Act). Part 4A of the Act. This change will enable health providers providing screening services to have direct look-up access to participants’ screening histories in a wider range of settings through a secure log in.

Health provider access will be enabled as part of the design and build of the IT solution that will support the transition to human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening. More detailed information on the changes to the Bill can be found here

Page last updated: 06 October 2021