News archive

Response to cervical screening joint statement

Seema Kennedy MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care, responds to cervical screening joint statement

On 19th March, the Institute of Biomedical Science, British Association for Cytopathology and Royal College of Pathologists issued a joint statement on the cervical screening news in the national media. The statement set out concerns about the future of cervical screening in England and was sent on to Seema Kennedy MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care by Professor Jo Martin. We can confirm that a response has been received and are publishing it in full below:

Dear Professor Martin,

Thank you for your correspondence of 27 March to Jackie Doyle-Price, co-signed by Dr Paul Cross, President of the British Association of Cytopathology, and Mr Allan Wilson, President Elect of the Institute of Biomedical Science, about the cervical screening programme. 

I appreciate your concerns and I am grateful to you for taking the time to share these with the Department. 

As you will be aware, the announcement in 2016 of the planned introduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening and reconfiguration of laboratories has had an effect on cytology workforce retention and recruitment rates. This has led to an increase in result turnaround times for cervical screening samples in 2016/17 and 2017/18. However, NHS England has been taking steps to make sure the delivery, performance and oversight of screening services meet the high standard that patients rightly expect. 

A number of initiatives have been introduced nationally and locally to maintain the service, accommodate current staffing levels and support the delivery of the turnaround target of 14 days. The majority of existing HPV pilot sites have converted more of their cervical screening activity to HPV primary screening, which has freed up cytology capacity for laboratories experiencing backlogs. Some non-­pilot sites have also converted to HPV primary screening when all other options for reducing their backlog have been unsuccessful.

In addition to this, commissioning teams are working with their cervical screening providers to put in place local strategies to improve result turnaround times in their areas. There have already been significant improvements in the last quarter of 2018/19, and it is expected that this will continue as the number of women benefitting from HPV primary screening increases. 

As you will know, Public Health England launched the major new national campaign 'Cervical Screening Saves Lives' on 5 March, to increase the number of women attending cervical screening across England. The campaign encourages women to take up their invitation to cervical screening and to book an appointment at their GP practice if they missed their last screening. It provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable, and reassures women who may be fearful of finding out they have cancer that the screening is not a test for cancer. 

Finally, I would like to thank the Royal College of Pathologists, the Institute of Biomedical Science and the British Association of Cytopathology for their continued support. 

I hope this reply is helpful, and I would be grateful if you could share it with Dr Cross and Mr Wilson.

Yours sincerely,

Seema Kennedy