Changes to cervical screening programme

Most changes to cells in the cervix are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a common virus transmitted during sexual contact. The body fights several types of HPV infections naturally but 1 in 10 of these infections (high risk HPV types) are harder to get rid of. Without being monitored and treated these can develop into abnormal cells that can cause cervical cancer.

From early 2020 HPV testing (also referred to as high risk HPV testing) will be introduced. This will be carried out using the same samples of cells taken during a cervical screening/smear test so the cervical screening experience for women will remain unchanged.

We have produced a frequently asked question (FAQ) document that gives background information to the planned 2020 service change.

We carried out research to explore women’s understanding of the introduction of HPV testing. The findings give us a clear insight into current awareness and the language we should use to update information materials which support the programme. You can read more about the findings in our research report.

National Services Division (NSD) has produced a high risk HPV testing newsletter. This also provides more information on the service change.