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Changes to National Cervical Screening Programme

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme

Ministry of Health Director-General Dr Karen Poutasi is writing to all women enrolled in the National Cervical Screening Programme informing them about changes to the programme which will take effect from 7 March 2005 aimed at improving its quality, safety and effectiveness.

The changes result from the passing of a new law, the Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Act, which addresses several issues raised from the 2001 Ministerial Inquiry into the Under-reporting of Cervical Smear Abnormalities in the Gisborne region, including barriers to effectively evaluating the Programme.

A key purpose of the law change is to improve the operation and evaluation of the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP), to ensure its safety and effectiveness for women. The Act sets out objectives for the NCSP and provides for the appointment of experts (called Evaluators) to assess the performance and safety of the Programme by ensuring they have access to key information.

A decision to send a letter to more than a million women enrolled on the NCSP-Register was reached in consultation with the health select committee, consumer groups and the screening unit's consumer reference group, which includes several women's organisations. The letter, which will be sent later this month, will inform women about the changes and how they will affect them. Information packs will also be sent to health centres throughout the country.

NCSP Clinical Leader Dr Hazel Lewis says: "Sending a letter to more than a million women based on contact details held on the NCSP-Register is no easy task. We expect some women who are enrolled on the programme may miss out on the letter if their contact details are not up-to-date. Women can ring the freephone 0800 729 729 to update their details and discuss any concerns they may have about the law change or the programme."

The recent Cervical Cancer Audit found that overall women and health professionals can have confidence in the services provided by the NCSP and should be encouraged to participate in it. Since the National Cervical Screening Programme began there's been a reduction in the number of women who develop cervical cancer of about 40 percent and a reduction in deaths from cervical cancer of about 60 percent.

More information can be found at http://www.healthywomen.org.nz

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