Cervical Cancer: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 22nd March 2019.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on (a) staffing levels and (b) waiting times of the centralisation of cervical screening laboratories.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Prior to the agreement on the optimum number of centralised laboratories to deliver the new human papilloma virus (HPV) primary screening to replace cytology, consideration was given to how this would impact on the existing workforce. A survey of the existing workforce was undertaken by the British Association of Cytopathologists in 2017 and the outcomes of this arising was included amongst further consideration when confirming the maximum number of laboratories required to deliver the service across the country.

The planned introduction of HPV primary screening and reconfiguration of laboratories has impacted on cytology workforce retention and recruitment rates, which led to an increase in the waiting time for cervical screening results in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Unpublished management data has also shown an improvement in turnaround times in the last quarter of 2018/19. As HPV testing takes over from cytology testing during 2019, it is expected that waiting times will reduce significantly.

Nevertheless, the 14-day turnaround time for test results to be provided remains a vital target for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

The roll-out of HPV primary screening into the NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme in England is due to be rolled out in December 2019. This could prevent around 600 cancers a year.

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