Following the BAC letter to Dr Anne Mackie, Director of Screening PHE, her response is attached. She acknowledges problems with the current cervical screening service delivery, the concerns of our members, and issues with communication.
It highlights the wide range of professionals involved with the cervical screening programme, and how they are contributing. Many are BAC members and some are BAC executive members. Whilst there is work on going, led by Public Health England (PHE), there is very little concrete information that can be meaningfully shared with the wider programme at this time. This is not to suggest in any way that we are holding back information, it is just that it is still "work in progress".
The letter mentions the issue of contracting. Currently there are many CSP contracts between commissioning bodies and laboratories for cytology - these all are locally contracted, and will have many different contract end dates. This is a major issue in delivering a national change across England as alignment of all these contracts to the same date would be required for a single national approach. This may not be possible.
It also mentions the setting up of an advisory group for cervical screening laboratory issues. We hope this will involve, formally, all professional groups involved within the CSP to help advise on professional aspects of the programme, and also help shape, update and create new guidance as required.
The letter also mentions the mitigation plan to assist laboratories with current backlogs. The BAC are yet to be convinced that this will create any meaningful capacity to assist struggling laboratories who need help now. Other options, as suggested in our letter, we feel need to be considered as a matter of urgency.
We are also aware of recent concerns about the current Primary Care IT system supplier, Capita (https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/committees/general-practitioners-committee/gpc-current-issues/capita-service-failure). Amongst other aspects of this service Capita is responsible for delivering the IT for the Call/Recall system in England (https://www.england.nhs.uk/commissioning/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2015/12/pcs-service-description-nov15.pdf). This system is critical to the programme, and must run smoothly and reliably for the operation of the CSP itself.
Please be assured that the BAC will continue to work with all parties to deliver these changes in difficult times. All parties are working to help protect the health of women who are offered cervical screening and ensure we maintain the service we are all so rightly proud of.