The National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) is pleased to announce that Pathology Associates Limited (Pathlab) and Southern Community Laboratories Limited (SCL) have been selected to provide laboratory services to support the transition to HPV primary screening after July 2023, when it becomes the primary cervical screening test.
The NCSP is working to finalise service level agreements with the Auckland Community Anatomic Pathology Service (APS) in providing laboratory services for both HPV testing and cytology testing, the latter being required as a secondary test for participants who test positive for the HPV virus.
Te Whatu Ora cervical screening services in Auckland are delivered at Anatomic Pathology Service (APS), a key New Zealand public laboratory with the capacity, capability including the clinical expertise and experience to deliver on the outcomes and objectives sought by the National Screening Unit (NSU).
Pathlab and SCL have been chosen after a thorough evaluation following a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Laboratories had to meet criteria including quality standards, staff qualifications, training and development, quality management systems, risk management, records and administration and capacity.
Key elements of service delivery include:
- The high quality of results from the screening programme is maintained through technical assurance and quality control
- A mix of New Zealand owned and/or publicly funded laboratory facilities as well as privately-owned laboratories are supported where possible
- Ability to maintain a sustainable and flexible workforce and service delivery (noting changing volumes to cytology, HPV and histopathology screening)
- Services are delivered in a way that is consistent with tikanga Māori cultural practices
- A seamless end-to-end process is maintained from primary healthcare to testing and results management
A key requirement was the capacity to handle a minimum of 15,000 samples a year in cytology, thereby maintaining the competency of New Zealand’s cytology workforce.
The NCSP says that the evaluation panel based its decision on proposals for service delivery, business continuity planning, capability and capacity, the ability to transition to HPV Primary Screening, and the understanding of Māori cultural practice.
“It is important that we retain competition and ensure we have certainty in the provision of laboratory services for cervical screening. That is why we have chosen a total of three laboratories nationally who will provide continuation of the high-quality services that we expect to support.
“This is an important step in preparing for the transition to HPV primary screening. Laboratories now have about a year to plan for the transition and put the preparatory steps in place.”
Contracts will be established with laboratory services commencing July 2023. The contracts will be for an initial term of three years with options for right of renewal.
Te Whatu Ora will also have transition arrangements in place to assist those laboratories that do not get contracts. Te Whatu Ora is committed to supporting these laboratories and will assist them in supporting their workforce.
The introduction of HPV primary screening is expected to significantly increase the number of people who choose to screen. Unlike the current primary screening method of a cytology test, involving a speculum examination, HPV testing finds evidence of a specific viral infection - human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common virus which can lead to cervical cancer.
HPV testing does not require a speculum examination unless people choose to do so. All people will also be offered the choice of a clinician-collected sample or a self-collected sample (self-testing). Self-testing will be undertaken in a clinical or community health care setting.
The option of self-testing is expected to boost the numbers of wāhine who choose to undergo screening and will increase participation and equitable outcomes by reducing barriers to screening.
This will enable the programme to work towards elimination of cervical cancer in New Zealand for all people, specifically supporting equitable outcomes for wāhine Māori and Pacific women within 10 years (based on the World Health Organization elimination threshold of ≤4/100,000 population).