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GPs in devolved nations to provide HPV testing as primary screening test for cervical cancer

GPs in Northern Ireland and Wales are preparing to provide HPV testing as a primary screening test for cervical cancer following recommendations from the national screening committee, Pulse has learned.

Health minister Simon Hamilton suggested in the Northern Ireland Assembly earlier this month that the country would make the change, while the Welsh Government said it was ‘exploring how to introduce it.’

The NHS cervical screening programme currently uses cytology testing to look for abnormal cells, and HPV testing is used as a secondary measure in women needing further investigation.

But the UK National Screening Committee recommended last month that screening for HPV first would be a more effective way to let women know whether they are at risk of cervical cancer.

The Department in Health in England and the Scottish Government said they were still considering the recommendation.

Mr Hamilton’s comments came in the Northern Ireland Assembly following a question on screening by DUP MLA Pam Cameron.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘In January the UK National Screening Committee, from which we take advice on screening matters, recommended the introduction of human papillomavirus testing as the primary screening test for cervical cancer, and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland has undertaken a scoping exercise on its introduction.

’We will access its findings and I hope that this work will come forward with conclusions very soon. I hope that we will also introduce the HPV test, which would be good news for people in Northern Ireland.’

A Welsh Government spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Following the recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee we are exploring how we could introduce HPV as a primary test for cervical cancer in Wales. This proposed change will require substantial planning. However, it will help reduce unnecessary recalls for repeat smears and colposcopy.’

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