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Cervical Cancer: Screening

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 216351, tabled on 4 February 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to page 8 of the January 2019 NAO report on the management of health screening, what steps he is taking to increase the proportion of women who receive the results of cervical screening tests within 14 days from 55 per cent to the target rate of 98 per cent.

Answered on

7 February 2019

Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer are key priorities for this Government, and we are already working closely with NHS England and Public Health England to address the issues this useful report highlights.

These include a national mitigation plan whereby a majority of existing HPV pilot sites have converted more of their cervical screening activity to human papilloma virus (HPV) primary screening. This has freed up cytology capacity which has been used for laboratories experiencing backlogs and therefore, samples have been transferred across the country. This has also been replicated amongst non-pilot sites who have converted to HPV primary screening when all other options for reducing their backlog have not proved successful.

Most recently, a national resilience plan has been introduced whereby all existing laboratories have been given the opportunity to implement, as soon as possible, HPV primary screening prior to the conclusion of a procurement for new laboratory providers. Existing laboratory providers will continue this provision throughout the whole transitional period up to and following the commencement of the new service.

As per the ministerial commitment, full geographical coverage of HPV primary screening within the NHS Cervical Screening Programme will be achieved by the end of December 2019.

Furthermore, NHS England announced in November 2018 that Professor Sir Mike Richards will lead a review of the national cancer screening programmes. The review, expected to report by summer 2019 will include recommendations about future commissioning and delivery of cancer screening programmes in England.

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