Communicating abnormal cervical smear results

image of three women
It is the primary responsibility of the smear taker to advise women of their test results.
An important part of the cervical screening pathway is women understanding their results following a cervical smear and being clear on the next steps for them.

This helps women to understand the process, which may include another smear or referral to colposcopy. The National Screening Unit (NSU) recently became aware of a number of instances where smear takers had not contacted a woman with her abnormal smear results. This is a key responsibility of smear takers and is outlined in Section Four of the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) Policies and Standards, standard 409, which can be downloaded here.

There are also a number of resources available on the NSU website to help smear takers explain abnormal results to women. These can be downloaded here.

The NCSP-Register acts as a back up to the smear taker by sending letters notifying participants of results that are abnormal (unless they are already under specialist care).

The Register also provides additional support, including smear taker reports, and staff following up when referrals to colposcopy are not received by the Register within a specific timeframe.

While letters form an important part of this support, it is the primary responsibility of the smear taker to advise women of their test results and follow up based on the Guidelines for Cervical Screening outlined in the NCSP Policies and Standards.

When referring a woman for colposcopy, smear takers need to advise the colposcopy clinic why they are referring her, because under the 2013 Colposcopy Standards, colposcopists are required to document the smear taker’s reason for referral. Colposcopists capture this information on the colposcopy form that gets sent to the NCSP-Register. The colposcopist’s form can be downloaded here.

Sections One and Three of the NCSP Policies and Standards have recently been published on the NSU website, and can be found here. Section One provides an overview of the NCSP, and Section Three is for invitation, recall and regional coordination services.

The NCSP encourages smear takers to look at these newly-published standards and discuss them with their colleagues. We would also like to thank everyone who provided feedback on them during the development process.

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Page last updated: 29 October 2014