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HPV testing rollout stalls in early stages

By Lilian Anekwe

The rollout of HPV testing in the national cervical screening programme has stalled in the planning stages, Pulse has learned.

In January the Government announced that, in line with requirements set out in the NHS Operating Framework, HPV testing would be added to the cervical screening programme and rolled out across the country from April.

At the time a statement from the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes said it would ‘work with PCTs and trusts to roll out HPV triage during 2011.'

Experts predicted that the inclusion of HPV testing for triage of women with borderline or low-grade cervical abnormalities would significantly reduce the number of repeat cytology tests required, and would have major cost savings for the NHS by targeting the use of colposcopy services more effectively.

Details were due to be published in March, setting out details of how HPV testing would be rolled out to all hospital laboratories in England. Scotland uses HPV testing just for treatment follow-up, while Northern Ireland and Wales are running studies.

But a month after the April deadline, a spokesperson for the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes told Pulse HPV testing has not been rolled out beyond any of the six pilot sites, and no statistics were available on how many eligible women have been screened for HPV, or what proportion of GPs have access to the service.

The spokesperson said: 'The NHSCSP are currently planning the roll out and drafting supportive documents.'

'We are still in the planning stages of the roll out – both sample takers and lab technicians will need guidance and training on this. As such, the national office are currently developing materials including a primary care pack.'

HPV testing is planned for women whose smear tests show borderline or low-grade cervical abnormalities

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