In each of the four years leading up to 2018/19, there were 48 providers of cytology laboratory services operating across England. By the end of the year 2018/19, this number had reduced to 46 as two providers did not wish to continue providing cytology services.
NHS England is currently undertaking a national procurement to secure service providers to deliver human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening, and as part of this process NHS England will consolidate the 46 laboratories who currently support the programme to a maximum of nine laboratories. The HPV pilot evaluation suggested that the need for cytology could reduce by as much as 85% when HPV testing is used as the primary screen.
The successful providers are expected to be announced in April 2019 and five year contracts will commence from July 2019. Providers are expected to convert to HPV primary screening by December 2019, and operate from a single site by 31 March 2020.