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The Director of Public Health Commissioning and Operations reflects on the unrelenting commitment of staff to implement a new test that could prevent 600 more cervical cancers every year.
As we enter a new decade, December saw the NHS has implement a new testing process as part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England that could prevent around 600 additional cases of cervical cancer a year.
Achieving this key NHS Long Term Plan commitment is testament to the hard work of the many staff that have been involved across the country.
HPV Primary Screening is now the first line of testing in the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England. All samples taken at cervical screening appointments will firstly be tested for high risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is the virus which causes over 99% of cervical cancers. It is a more sensitive test with longer protection of a negative result and will identify more people at risk of cervical cancer. HPV Primary Screening is also a more efficient screening method, because it is an automated test and only HPV positive samples need to be further analysed using liquid based cytology.
As ever, a big national service change like this is rarely straight forward. It has involved a major change in the number of providers delivering laboratory services to support the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. Those providing these services need to cover bigger areas of the country – to ensure the high quality standards within the programme are maintained.
We also need to acknowledge the uncertainty that transitioning to this new testing process has created for many of the staff working in these services. They are highly skilled and experienced people and it’s important we retain their expertise in the NHS.
This is a milestone moment for NHS services and for the fight to save more lives from cancer. As we move through an extremely busy time for the NHS but look ahead to the opportunities in 2020, it feels fitting to reflect on this moment and say thank you to the health professionals that have made it possible.