The NCSP has been working towards two key changes in the programme - the introduction of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening and changing the screening start age from 20 to 25 years of age.
HPV primary screening has been shown to be a more effective test to determine the risk of developing cervical cancer and transitioning to an HPV primary screening programme will further reduce both the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer. The current IT system that supports the NCSP was designed specifically for a cytology based screening pathway and a new fit for purpose IT solution needs to be developed to safely and effectively implement HPV primary screening.
The transition to HPV primary screening has been extended to allow time to develop this IT solution as part of the National Screening Solution. A date for transition to HPV primary screening is still to be decided, however we are working towards commencing this from 2021.
There is now a strong body of evidence that screening women between the ages of 20 and 24 provides little benefit to women and this change reduces the potential harm of over treatment for women in this age group. This change will be introduced in 2019.
In the interim, the current cytology based screening programme continues to be a safe and effective programme and the NCSP is committed to ensuring New Zealand women have equitable access to high-quality cervical screening.
For more information around the change of timing for improvements to the NCSP please contact Ministry of Health national screening unit group manager Astrid Koornneef: email@example.com.