PHE Screening has now released some information about how cervical screening laboratories which are having difficulties achieving the 14 day TAT target may address this.
The proposed way forward is “..to put in place a short term mitigation plan to extend HPV Primary Screening in pilot sites. The intention of the plan is to provide additional capacity to support backlogs of screening from all providers.” The downloads within this news item indicate that this is about helping labs with cytology reporting backlogs by using potential spare cytology reporting capacity at the primary HPV pilot site laboratories.
Any such arrangement would need agreement by commissioners, NHS screening and QA services. This may be able to assist some laboratories in the short term. This is no different to laboratories sending out their cytology reporting backlogs to any other NHS laboratory that could offer a backlog reporting service, except that it would appear that virtually none have any spare capacity.
The planned move to a national implementation of HPV Primary screening will dramatically reduce the cervical cytology workload, and in the long term is the obvious way forward. We are encouraged that some information is available to pass onto those involved within cytology laboratories, but there are many unanswered questions about the approach and future plans for the permanent implementation of Primary HPV primary screening.
It would seem that other options ( such as relaxing the 14 day TAT or amending call/recall intervals or timings) are not being actively considered. The BAC will continue to lobby for more consideration of options and planning, and when more information is available (which the documentation says should be shortly) will share this.