The Government recognises that it is important that women are informed about their cervical screening results as soon as possible and that they are aware when they receive their results that they are independent of any onward referral for further investigative tests if needed.
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme is introducing testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) as the primary test carried out on cervical screening samples and this is due to be implemented across England by 2020. As a result of the move to HPV primary screening, cervical screening providers have experienced difficulties in meeting the 14-day TAT target. This is due to the HPV primary screening requiring less cytologists to carry out testing and staff anticipating this reduction before the full roll-out has been implemented and reduced workload seen.
A number of initiatives have been introduced across the country to reduce waiting times for cervical screening test results. These include: laboratories offering overtime for staff; utilising existing HPV pilot sites to create additional cytology capacity for other laboratories; and allowing the conversion of existing service providers to HPV primary screening ahead of full roll-out nationally.
In addition to this, Professor Richards’ review of national adult screening programmes recommended that NHS England should ensure that all screening results are given to patients in the standard timeframes. Professor Richards also acknowledged that the difficulties experienced in cervical screening has been due to the change in testing and should revert once the transition has been completed given close monitoring.